A Part of The Process

A Part of The Process

Tyler Jurist, Staff Writer

With the NBA season being in full throttle and the NCAA’s March Madness tournament only just beginning, the sport of basketball is seeing many star players playing to the best of their abilities. In every NBA season, there are decisions made that can make a season feel different than the others. This season has especially felt the effects from this past offseason and the trade deadline.

Many NBA teams have seen this season be the one that has ultimately changed the future of their franchise. There is one specific team that is playing some of their best basketball as of late due to the acquisition of star player, James Harden. This team happens to be our home NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers. With an MVP candidate in center Joel Embiid and a well-rounded lineup, they are preparing to make a major playoff run in hopes to take home their first championship since 1983.

Harden with Embiid

As of now, the team’s current record stands at 43-26, making them the third seed of the Eastern Conference. They now move to 9-2 in games with Harden in the lineup and have been in the limelight thanks to Harden’s play-making abilities, making him a great addition to what they have currently. Not only has Harden been a leader but he has been able to spread the floor quite efficiently and allow more spacing for fellow players including point guard Tyrese Maxey and star Center Joel Embiid. After playing his first game with Harden, Embiid went as far as to say, “That was probably the most wide-open I’ve ever been in my career.” Joel Embiid is an MVP frontrunner averaging a staggering 30 points per game. Not only are they playing great, but they also have arguably the best-suited coach to take them to the Finals in head coach Doc Rivers. It is a win-now situation in the city of Philadelphia. 

Before getting into the specifics on what it took the Sixers to acquire Harden and why they made the trade in the first place, you should first be aware of Harden’s career up to this point. Truthfully, not many players are as special or as renowned as the former 2017-2018 MVP. Known for his infamous beard and step-back three-pointer, he carries a sense of elite stardom.  Drafted third overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2009 NBA draft, Harden’s NBA future was going to be bright right out of the get-go. He joined the dynamic duo of point guard Russell Westbrook and small forward Kevin Durant with hopes to be a shining star in the NBA. Unfortunately, after his third season with the team and winning the Sixth man of the year award, they lost in the NBA finals to the Miami Heat in the 2011-2012 season. Harden truly didn’t like being known as the third-best player on the team and he decided he wanted to play elsewhere. 

The Thunder were really hoping to extend Harden, but after rejecting an extension and seeking a max contract, Harden wanted out of Oklahoma City as soon as possible. This then led to a trade between the Thunder and Houston Rockets where his career would ultimately take a major step up. It was in Houston where Harden cemented the foundation for his career, winning his MVP award and statistically breaking record books for being a triple-double machine, posting up unbelievable numbers each game. Arguably, Harden was the best thing to happen to Houston, playing over 9 years with the organization up until requesting a trade in the 2020-2021 season. Never being able to lead them to the Finals, he wanted out once more and the former MVP was traded in a blockbuster three-team deal to his now-former team, the Brooklyn Nets. 

Harden playing defense against former teammmate, Kyrie Irving

In his stint with the Nets, he joined former champion Kyrie Irving and reunited with former teammate Kevin Durant in hopes to win the Finals trophy. This clearly did not end up happening with the trio only playing sixteen full games together and massively failing people’s expectations of winning the Finals, losing in the first round to the soon-to-be NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. When the three took the court they looked like a prime-time superteam, playing as a concise unit. But unfortunately for the Nets, the three were never healthy enough to stay on the court together. In their sixteen games together they managed a 13-3 record.

Fast-forwarding to this season’s past trade deadline, Harden was traded yet again, this time to the Philadelphia 76ers. After flunking and failing to make it to the third round of the playoffs again, something needed to change for the 76ers. The Sixers faced arguably the biggest headline this past offseason with all-star point guard Ben Simmons refusing to play after a terrible performance in last year’s playoffs. Ben Simmons received $19 million in fines from the 76ers, sticking to his word to not play for them again and this found him being traded in the deal for James Harden and was then sent to Brooklyn.

Before the trade deadline came to an end, the Sixers President, Daryl Morey, was in charge of making the final decision on what to do with Ben Simmons’s contract. And with him refusing to play, he ultimately felt it was time to get rid of Simmons and pursue James Harden. With  Morey acquiring Harden on the Houston Rockets, he then achieved the goal once more. Even though the trade achieved Daryl Morey’s goal of finding a way to get rid of Ben Simmons, the Sixers had to suffer the loss of two fan favorites in Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, who were key pieces of the team. The Sixers traded Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two future first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden and Paul Millsap.

Being from the Philadelphia area, I am often aware of the rowdy fan bases that surround the city. No matter what sport it is, Philadelphia fans are often some of the most enthusiastic and outgoing. I was able to witness this first hand when attending Harden’s home debut game in the Wells Fargo Center as a Sixer on March 2nd against my favorite team, the New York Knicks. Being a sold-out game, I couldn’t help but stare in awe. With the game feeling like one of a playoff game or that of Wrestlemania, it felt beyond electric. The game saw Joel Embiid accept the Eastern Conference Player of the month award for February and fans cheered as loud as they could, also erupting for Harden’s introduction with the team. With many fans wearing fake beards and a flood of Harden jerseys, you could already tell that with Harden playing only two games prior with the team, the fans were going to accept him right away no matter what. Even though my Knicks were not able to manage the win, losing 108-123, it was a night to remember.

The arena held the likes of rapper Meek Mill and film director M. Night Shyamalan. With celebrities that popular, I can only imagine how many more games there will be like this due to the likes of James Harden. When Sixers fans find hope, they make sure to buy-in.

When I asked a Sixers fan what he thought about what James Harden brings to the team, he felt that “James Harden is the missing piece the team has needed in order to go to the NBA finals.” With Harden enjoying the company of his new team, he is looking forward to the future and forgetting the past. Not only has the trade for Harden impacted the team as a whole but it will for years to come.