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Why did 76ers’ James Harden choose to take a salary cut?

The 76ers star endured a tough first season with the franchise, but with his decision to take a reduced salary and his apparent commitment to improving, there could be exciting times ahead in Philly.

Why did 76ers’ James Harden choose to take a salary cut?
Bill StreicherUSA TODAY Sports

As things stand, a deal has not officially been agreed upon, but what’s clear is that the 76ers star is committed to helping his team do better.

James Harden opens up about opting for salary cut

Though James Harden’s new contract with the Philadelphia 76ers is yet to be finalized, one thing is certain and that’s the fact that he will be taking a significant pay cut for the 2022-23 NBA season. In an effort to help the Sixers attain additional cap space, Harden made clear his intention to give the franchise a leg up. To that end, Philadelphia wasted no time in signing P.J. Tucker and Danuel House who incidentally played with Harden in Houston, as well as Trevelin Queen. Speaking recently about his decision to take a financial hit, Harden was clear about his motivations.

“I had conversations with [Sixers president of basketball operations] Daryl [Morey], and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players,” Harden said. “I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”

Critics aside, it’s a bold move by James Harden

It goes without saying, that many will quickly point out the idea that Harden can easily afford to take a reduction in salary given how much he has earned in his career, however, at such an elite level of sport, this isn’t really about money, but rather a declaration by a player that the team is more important than his personal desires. With that in mind, it must be said that such displays of loyalty are not common in professional sports today, far less the NBA. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt that the man himself is quite happy with the moves being made by the franchise in the market. “I think we have a much deeper team,” he said. “That’s something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we’re positioned to go a lot further. I like how we stack up with the rest of the top teams.”

The James Harden effect

Last season was not a good one for James Harden, this is clear. On the back of a slew of subpar performances, there have been many who have aggressively raised doubts about whether he should be allowed to continue in Philly and if so, in what way should he be utilized. Yet, it would be silly to believe that the former league MVP is beyond his best. If only we consider the manner in which defenses respond to his presence on the floor, it’s clear that his playmaking and floor spacing days are not at their end. Indeed, Joel Embiid would be lying if he said Harden’s aura doesn’t have an effect on opposing teams.

Can James Harden do better in the 2022-23 NBA season?

The interesting thing is that if we take a look at Harden’s numbers last season, 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds averaged per game, they’re solid. The problem is as decent as those stats may be, they aren’t nearly to the level of production that he used to be. Whether is a supposed lack of speed or an inability to finish, it’s clear that Harden last season was not the player we know him to be. Having watched Harden blow by defenders for 10 years with the Rockets, it was hard to see him relying extensively on 3-pointers for his points. It would be unfair not to mention the fact that Harden had to recover from a hamstring injury while adapting to a new team’s system in the middle of a season, however, critiques aside the former Rockets star - if nothing else - seems eager to take on the challenge.

“I wasn’t right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double,” Harden said. “If anybody else had those numbers, we’d be talking about them getting the max. People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That’s just what it was. I’m in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I’m just looking forward to next season.”

James Harden is looking ahead

If one thing can’t be questioned, it’s Harden’s dedication to making things better. To date, he’s been working hard on improving his physical condition is working, while seeking to build greater understanding with Philly’s main man Joel Embiid. “I talk with Joel frequently and we have meetings about how we’re going to play and what we need to do to help our team win a championship,” Harden said. “When you have two of the top players at their positions on the same team, that’s a great building block. We’re going to grow together and try to lead this team to the top. I believe we can do it together.”

Regardless of where you stand on Harden, a few things remain true. Firstly, he’s acted and spoken in a respectable and more over admirable way since arriving in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. On the other hand, that leads us to the contrasting second point, which is that if you’re going to talk the talk, then you’ve got to walk the walk. That’s where Harden has fallen down thus far, such that one can imagine that come next season, the Sixers, his teammates and he himself will be hoping to turn a corner and go for a deep run in the post season. Watch this space!