Joel Embiid envisioned successful an NBA championship with James Harden at his facet. Embiid has a brand new concept of tips on how to win one with the 76ers – play his former teammate and the Los Angeles Clippers within the NBA Finals.
“He is on the shedding facet of it,” Embiid stated with amusing. “We’re on the successful facet of it.”
Embiid and the 76ers are relieved they’re now not tethered to the every day Harden cleaning soap opera that has enveloped the franchise for the reason that summer season.
The 76ers traded Harden this week to the Clippers for a package deal of gamers and draft picks, ending the promise of two NBA MVPs chasing a championship in Philly.
“He obtained what he wished,” Embiid stated.
The Sixers did, too.
They’re, maybe for the primary time since former guard Ben Simmons issued his commerce demand in 2021, a whole group with out the complications that come together with All-Stars bellyaching about their function, their contract, their emotions contained in the locker room.
The 76ers are maybe an uncalled journey away within the season opener from being 4-0. As it’s, the 76ers are 3-1 with Embiid placing up numbers like a participant intent on defending his MVP crown. Tyrese Maxey has blossomed into the true, unselfish No. 2 function that Harden by no means actually embraced over 79 regular-season video games. And Tobias Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. are taking part in extra like pivotal contributors relatively than oft-forgotten function gamers.
Harden took some parting pictures on the Sixers on Thursday in Los Angeles with the 10-time All-Star saying the group had him “on a leash” in his brief stint. Harden complained he did not get sufficient credit score in Philly for sacrificing thousands and thousands on his final contract in the summertime of 2022 so the group had sufficient cash to spend on free brokers. And he stated beneath former coach Doc Rivers, the Sixers did not play an offense that match his ball-dominant, freelance-style of offense.
“I am not a system participant,” Harden stated. “I’m a system.”
Embiid scoffed on the notion that Harden – who fell out of favor amongst Philly followers with a mixed 22 factors in Video games 6 and seven second-round playoff losses final season to Boston – was hamstrung by the Sixers’ scheme.
“We gave him the ball each single possession to only exit and do his factor,” Embiid stated. “From there, he needed to make selections so far as getting guys open or searching for himself. I assumed he did a reasonably good job simply getting us into an offense.”
If the Sixers missed Harden, it positive did not seem to be it within the locker room.
The Sixers beat Toronto on Thursday night time in a recreation the place nearly everybody contributed. Embiid had 28 factors, 13 boards and 7 assists. Harris and Oubre every scored 23. Maxey had 18.
Harden’s nameplate was, in fact, faraway from his locker and there wasn’t a shred of his merchandise present in group shops on the Wells Fargo Heart concourse. Not even on the low cost rack.
Embiid, although, famous the way it’s nonetheless type of onerous to think about how far more of a menace the 76ers may need been with a wholesome, completely happy, well-paid Harden nonetheless on the roster.
“That was out of our management,” Embiid stated. “In that scenario, you have to roll with it. However I nonetheless imagine now we have an opportunity. We’re proper there. Particularly with the group now we have proper now.”
Sixers coach Nick Nurse was employed in the summertime and shortly discovered himself making an attempt to navigate the murky Harden waters – the guard publicly known as group president Daryl Morey a liar to ignite the dissension.
Harden opted in to the ultimate 12 months of his contract to attempt to drive a commerce, was late to coaching camp and had hit-and-miss participation at follow – with little inclination to really actually play – all whereas Nurse was making an attempt to implement his fashion and get to know his new group.
Whereas Nurse publicly stated all the correct issues forward of the commerce about welcoming Harden again, he admitted Thursday that he by no means actually believed he would coach Harden.
“I believe that I assumed the probabilities had been fairly low,” Nurse stated. “When he opted in, I stated, ‘OK, we get an opportunity to educate him.’ Then the stuff occurred and I went, ‘Oh’. Up and down, up and down somewhat bit. There have been instances, yeah, once I thought for positive. Then he confirmed up in follow.
“I’ll say this, he was in form, labored extraordinarily onerous, was extraordinarily skilled whereas he was right here and he seemed superior. He actually did, whereas he was right here. We simply by no means obtained to the sport a part of all of it.”
Embiid stated Harden was by no means actually a distraction – “guys have been targeted figuring out we’re nonetheless adequate” – and wished him properly in Los Angeles.
“I believe he did lots of nice issues for us,” Embiid stated. “However the notion of misuse, perhaps that may have been coming the best way he felt with the teaching employees. However for my part, I simply really feel like we simply allowed him to be himself. We gave him the ball each single possession as a result of he’s actually good. He is an incredible participant.”
Simply not in Philly anymore.