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Elimination game. Eastern Conference Semifinals. Joel Embiid’s running mate fails as the Philadelphia 76ers retire from the postseason.
Last year, it was Ben Simmons ripped limb by limb and thrown under the bus by his coach and superstar teammate, after missing an open dunk against the Atlanta Hawks.
This time? James Harden with a performance that could have trumped – in the worst way possible – Simmons’ playoff disaster. Of course, that also sparked an Embiid post-game sweep.
Fri, May 13
Friday May 13
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After Philadelphia gave up Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks for Harden, the 32-year-old guard repaid them with 11 points in a game-winning or homecoming.
Taking just two shots in the second half, Harden, a three-time NBA champion who once averaged 36.1 points per game over a season, watched — as he is wont — as a another black mark was added to his miserable playoff series. to resume.
In that game, Simmons finished with five points (2-for-4 shooting), eight rebounds, 13 assists, a +1 from the field and only one field goal in the second half.
Harden couldn’t even put that together.
Really, the irony is almost too much.
After an entire city chose to bully their All-Defensive superstar, who did everything at an elite level except shoot the ball, they were then forced to watch a playmaker do nothing, including the score.
And while it’s hard to get past just how bad Harden was, the staggering reality is that it could get even worse for the Sixers, who could be digging their own grave this offseason, if they haven’t already.
The decision to part ways with Simmons, and whatever might have been helpful moving forward, was made by gunslinger Daryl Morey, the same man who orchestrated Harden’s reign in Houston.
He believed, and perhaps believed enough at the time, that pairing Harden with Embiid was a winning move now, one that would make the Sixers instant title contenders.
Some accepted. Others have suggested Harden isn’t the player he once was.
After a postseason where Harden averaged just 18.5 points per game, the answer is clear: the Harden of old is just a Harden that’s old.
And while Simmons hasn’t played in Brooklyn yet, it’s hard to say they’re losers with picks and a 25-year-old star who should be healthy to start next season.
The biggest problem ? Philadelphia must now figure out what to do with him, with closed-door promises likely already made.
When Harden arrived, the overwhelming opinion was that he would be given a max. extension, given his superstar status and the loot that was handed out for his services.
If Harden were to choose his player option next season and then sign a four-year extension, he would earn $270,180,000 (A$393 million) over the next five years.
“We will learn if the 76ers fall into the trap of extending Harden to a lucrative contract based on what he has accomplished in the past rather than his current and future play,” ESPN Front Office insider Bobby Marks tweeted.
“Or maybe they meet somewhere in the middle.”
Morey obviously likes Harden, and there’s already been talk of former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antonio joining Doc Rivers next season.
But while a Houston 2.0 — with an Embiid at its peak — sounds great, it’s down to Morey, D’Antoni and Harden all doing what they do best.
And Harden’s best isn’t what it used to be, and certainly isn’t good enough to justify a max. Contract.
“You clearly can’t give James Harden maximum. okay,” Jalen Rose said on ESPN.
“And if you’re talking about getting rid of Doc Rivers to bring in Mike D’Antoni, that’s not the solution.”
So the decision seems somewhat straightforward.
Admit they were wrong in the Harden trade and make another plan. Or double.
After knocking out his old team on Friday (AEST), Jimmy Butler, who was allowed to leave when Philadelphia picked Simmons and Tobias Harris over him, couldn’t help himself.
“I would always like to be on her [Embiid’s] team,” Butler said, adding he was happy in Miami.
Embiid probably wants the same thing.