James Harden has officially finalised his deal to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers, agreeing to a two-year, $68.6million contract on Wednesday.

Harden will make $33m for the 2022-23 season and then has the player option for $35.6m in 2023-24. He can decline the option and become a free agent again ahead of the 2023-24 and sign a new deal. 

Harden had previously declined his $47.4m player option for this upcoming season from the 76ers, but was set to return to them all along while taking a pay-cut to help the team sign other players with the hopes of building a championship roster. 

Thanks in part to his pay-cut, the 76ers have been able to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House this offseason, and are expected to contend amongst the best teams in the Eastern Conference with MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and Harden leading the way. 

Philadelphia acquired Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in February, and he averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games with the Sixers, but the team suffered the same fate as three of the previous four seasons, again losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

The 76ers have not been past the conference semis since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, and the 32-year-old Harden has never won a title, only reaching the NBA Finals once, in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

A 10-time All-Star and the 2017-18 NBA MVP, Harden averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in 65 total regular-season games for the 76ers and Nets, missing time due to hamstring issues. 

James Harden has declined his player option – which would have paid him $47.4million for the upcoming season – to become an unrestricted free agent, although all signs point to an extension with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Since arriving with the 76ers this past season in the trade that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, Harden's production was up-and-down.

He averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds in his 21 regular season games with his new team, but he also shot a career low 40 per cent from the field while attempting his fewest shots per game (13.6) since coming off the bench with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12.

His numbers in the playoffs dipped even further, averaging 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds while no-showing in the second half of some crucial defeats in their six-game series loss to the Miami Heat.

The report about Harden declining his player option, broken by The Athletic's Shams Charania, states his reasoning for declining the option is to extend with the 76ers at a more team-friendly salary that would allow the team to spend the savings on additional talent.

In the report, it is said that Harden has also returned to the 76ers' practice facility to begin his off-season program early, with his "sole focus" being to win a title in Philadelphia in this coming season.

By signing a deal more in the range of three years, $100m, the 76ers would have slightly more wiggle room to sign additional talent, but if they have plans on totally revamping the landscape, it would require trading Tobias Harris ahead of a season where he will be paid $37.6m – more than star Joel Embiid ($33.6m).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver revealed the league was exploring alterations to the rules on All-NBA team selections.

The NBA's tactical transformation since the implementation of the defensive three-second rule has created a recruiting need for skill over true size, translating into a more fluid style of basketball.

Meanwhile, with Joel Embiid finishing second in MVP voting but missing out on All-NBA First Team selection, due to both being centers.

In his annual news conference before the start of the NBA Finals, Silver said the league was looking at adapting to transforming circumstances.

"I think we're a league that has moved increasingly towards positionless basketball," Silver said Thursday in San Francisco, in his annual press conference at the start of the NBA Finals. "The current system may result in some inequities just based on the happenstance of what your position is.

"It's something that we will discuss with the players' association because it has an impact on incentives in players’ contracts."

The NBA allowed 100 media members to vote for Jokic or Embiid as forwards, but it failed to remedy given neither could be considered as such in the traditional sense.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has undergone surgery to repair two finger injuries but is expected to be ready for training camp.

Embiid suffered a problem with his right thumb in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

The 28-year-old played through the issue in Game 4, registering 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the 110-102 defeat in Toronto.

He managed to make it through the next two games as the 76ers edged out the Raptors, averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.

However, a right orbital fracture and concussion in Game 6 against Toronto kept him out of the first two games of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against Miami Heat.

Embiid returned with a face mask as Philadelphia fell to a series defeat against the Heat, despite the center finishing as the league scoring champion with 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

An issue with Embiid's left index finger, though, was not previously disclosed and he has sought to fix both hand problems with procedures in the offseason.

Embiid will hope to guide the 76ers further in the playoffs next season, after Philadelphia failed to make it past the second round for the fourth time in five years.

Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

James Harden cannot be expected to consistently dominate NBA games but could have shown more aggression as the Philadelphia 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs, team-mate Joel Embiid said.

According to Embiid, a team-wide lack of aggression cost the 76ers as a 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat spelled the end for their season.

After being bounced out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, much of the attention turned to Harden's quiet game.

He had just nine shots and scored only 11 points in almost 43 minutes on court, taking a mere two shots in the second half.

Embiid, who had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, said the 32-year-old Harden cannot be compared to the player who averaged above 30 points for three consecutive seasons with the Houston Rockets from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Harden was the NBA MVP in 2018, but his points on the board have begun to tail off in the past two seasons.

Since joining Philadelphia in February 2022, after a stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden has averaged 21.0 points over 21 regular season games, and just 18.6 points per game in the postseason.

Harden's field-goal shooting record of 40.5 per cent over the Sixers' 12 playoff games was his lowest in the postseason since the 2013-14 season.

"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," said Embiid. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been, as all of us could have been, more aggressive. All of us, whether it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys coming off the bench.

"And I'm not just talking about offensively. I'm talking about as a whole, offensively and defensively. I didn't think we were good defensively as a team.

"They took advantage of a lot of stuff that we tried to do defensively. And then offensively just really everybody being on the same page, obviously, only having probably three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn't a lot of time. I don't think we played our best basketball."

Lakers legend Magic Johnson was among those to question Harden's display, saying such a player "can't have a performance like that".

The 76ers won the last of their three NBA titles in 1983 and have not landed a conference title since 2001.

Asked how he and Harden could forge a stronger understanding, Embiid told a news conference: "Everybody's got to get better. It's not just about me and him."

Questions will be asked of Doc Rivers and the 76ers coaching staff, but Embiid said the players must look at themselves.

"I believe that we have the right people, but at some point you have to stop looking at coaching and you have to look at the players. Maybe you are just not good enough," Embiid said.

"I'm not trying to blame anybody, but the players have also got to do their jobs. It doesn't matter how much a coach or a GM talks to you or tries to motivate you, if you still go out there and don't do your job and the other team is more physical than you, that's on the players."

Joel Embiid insists he is "not mad" after missing out on the NBA's MVP award again to Nikola Jokic but continues to show contempt at the award's voting process.

The Philadelphia 76ers center was runner-up to Jokic last year and according to ESPN the Denver Nuggets' big man will edge him again for this season's gong.

Embiid enjoyed arguably a career-best season, with a league-high 30.6 points per game with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

"I'm not mad," Embiid told reporters, when speaking after the 76ers' 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

"That's two years in a row I put myself in that position. It didn't happen. It is almost like, at this point, it is whatever. Whatever happens, happens.

"Last year, I campaigned about it. This year, I answered questions when I was asked, and in the next few years until I retire, it's almost like ... like I said, I wonder what else I have to do to win it, and to me, at this point, it's whatever.

"It's all about focusing, not that I wasn't focused on the bigger picture. It's really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing."

Embiid's comments come with the 76ers on the brink of elimination after Tuesday's loss which leaves them 3-2 down in the Conference semi-finals to the Heat.

The 28-year-old Cameroonian added that there was no "right or wrong" answer for the MVP but continued to show derision towards the voting process, insisting he knew weeks ago he would not win.

"This is something that I knew weeks ago, even probably two weeks before the season ended, after those games against whether it was Denver and Milwaukee, and when [ESPN did its] straw poll or whatever. I just knew it wasn't gonna happen," Embiid said.

"Obviously, congrats to Nikola. He deserved it. He had an amazing season. There's no right or wrong. There was a lot of candidates.

"It could have gone either way. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Devin Booker, being on the best team in the league, by far. I guess, every year is all about whatever you guys decide, whatever fits the narrative as far as who's gonna win."

The Miami Heat moved a step closer to progressing to the Eastern Conference Finals, rolling past the Philadelphia 76ers in a 120-85 win on Tuesday.

The Heat comfortably took a 3-2 series lead as the Sixers collapsed in the third quarter, going three-of-12 from the floor for the period aside from Joel Embiid.

While the Heat started strong, Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey were taken out with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jimmy Butler was able to get to his spots on the floor, going nine-of-15 shooting on the way to 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the night.

As a team, Miami had a 20-point advantage (56-36) for points in the paint while seven players scored in double figures in the 35-point win, the joint largest margin of victory in the playoffs this season.

Suns surge in second-half to Game 5 win

The Phoenix Suns also claimed an important Game 5 victory on Tuesday, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 110-80.

Similar to the Philadelphia 76ers in the earlier game, the Mavericks started out ice cold and turned the ball over following the main break, giving up a double-digit lead to start the third quarter.

What was a one-point margin lead for the Suns at half-time quickly blew out to 17 by the middle of the third, when Deandre Ayton scored to make it 67-50.

The Western Conference's first seed did not look back from there, as Devin Booker finished the game with 28 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Dribble penetration and offensive rebounding created good looks for the Suns, who shot 37.5 per cent from beyond the arc, while the Mavs conversely shot at 25 per cent.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers criticised his side for their toughness and playing too slow in Tuesday's blowout 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5.

The defeat leaves the 76ers down 3-2 in the Conference semi-finals series with games in both Philadelphia and, if required, Miami to come.

The 76ers were never a threat in Game 5, trailing by 12 points at quarter time, with Miami eventually winning by 35 points; the equal biggest margin in the 2021-22 playoffs so far.

"They were just more physical. We didn't run our stuff very well," Rivers told reporters after the game.

"We played at a snail's pace. We had 85 shots, turned the ball over, everything they did tonight was harder and better.

"Their stuff was better than what we ran, their energy was better, their toughness was better, I haven't said that very often about us, and that's on all of us.

"That's on me to make sure they're ready and that's on them to be ready. Tonight, we were not."

The 76ers had squared up the series after being down 2-0 but Rivers was left bemused by their lack of effort in Game 5.

"Obviously, they just were so much more engaged, more physical, took us out of stuff, there was a lot of disappointment from all of us tonight," Rivers said.

Embiid had played in both Games 3 and 4 after a concussion and a fractured orbital bone, but struggled for impact in Game 5, managing only 17 points, five rebounds and two assists.

"We didn’t play defense," Embiid said. "We weren’t physical enough, we weren't locked in from the beginning, and they took advantage of it."

James Harden was kept to 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for Philadelphia.

"They got off to a good start," Harden said. "Being down 12 in the first quarter on the road against a really good team is difficult.

"We cannot allow that to happen. Especially, Game 5 and the two games where we just came off our home court playing well. It is difficult to come back and fight your way back and we just never got our pop."

The Dallas Mavericks tied up their playoff series in spite of a poor shooting night from Luka Doncic on Sunday, winning Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns 111-101.

The Slovenian went one-of-10 from beyond the arc and converted on a total of nine-of-25 from the floor, but the Mavs were otherwise automatic from long-range and Doncic was the facilitator in that regard.

He ended up with 11 assists while the rest of the Dallas team went 19-of-34 from deep, with Dorian Finney-Smith scoring a career playoff-high with 24 points on eight-of-12 from the perimeter.

While Devin Booker scored 35 points, Phoenix lacked a reference point late in the game with Chris Paul fouled out early.

The first-seeded Suns went three-of-nine from the perimeter in the fourth quarter, while Booker critically turned the ball over three times.

Sixers tie it up on home court

In the Eastern Conference, the first-seeded Miami Heat find themselves in a series, with the Philadelphia 76ers claiming a 116-108 win in Game 4.

Joel Embiid's second game back from injury gave the Sixers a boost to tie up the series, finishing with 24 points on seven-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds.

James Harden was the star of the show, however, coming up with 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, including some big buckets down the stretch.

The Heat were able to generate open looks, and at timely moments in the game, but were simply not able to capitalise, going seven-of-35 from the perimeter.

Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro were particularly unable to provide Miami with a scoring boost off the bench, combining for 26 points but off two-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid highlighted the fact that he does not need to be able to see perfectly to be a game-changer defensively, and declared he believes his team can win it all after pulling their series against the Miami Heat back to a 2-1 deficit.

Embiid struggled with his vision in his protective mask, but it was more than enough to help the 76ers to a 99-79 win in Game 3.

In his first game back after suffering a fractured orbital and a concussion as a result of a Pascal Siakam elbow in the last game of Philadelphia's series against the Toronto Raptors, he had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but transformed his side defensively.

It was the lowest total the 76ers have held an opponent to since beating the San Antonio Spurs 97-78 in January 2018.

Speaking to the post-game media, Embiid said it was a struggle to get ready for Game 3, but highlighted that he felt he did not need to be at 100 per cent to change the game defensively.

"It was a struggle," he said. "Really just because of the concussion, and dealing with a bunch of symptoms – but I'm glad it went away, and I'm glad I'm back.

"I didn't think I had a lot of energy, honestly. I was really trying to get through it, and just use my presence out there as a decoy. 

"I feel like what I pride myself on is defensively, and that's where my presence is really felt – on the defensive end. That's one of the main reasons I felt like I could have a huge impact.

"Just being to the ball even more, not allowing easy catches, and obviously being aggressive on their main scorers. 

"Tyler [Herro] – I thought we did a better job on him – obviously Jimmy [Butler] got going, and that's my fault, there were a couple times where I wasn't protecting the rim, so we definitely need to do a better job on him. 

"But their main scorers, we were just more aggressive, whether it was trapping the ball, or getting it out of their hands and trying to make everyone else beat us."

Touching on the first two games of the series where he did not make the trip to Miami, Embiid said it was tough to watch, but that he believes this Philly team can win the championship.

"It was very annoying – just watching," he said. "Obviously we didn't make shots, but we made a lot of mistakes, whether it was offensive rebounding, or turnovers. 

"Their big fella, Bam [Adebayo], he was dominating. I was really p****d off watching another big man play well against my team. 

"I think my main goal is that I really want to win, and I feel we have a big chance to win it all. 

"Obviously we have to stay healthy, and we all gotta play well at the same time – we all gotta be damn near perfect.

"So, to me, that's what I signed up for, and whatever it's going to take me to win, that's what I'm going to do."

The mask itself was a hindrance, according to the seven-foot-two Cameroonian, but he said it was not going to make a difference if he sat out one or two more games.

"I air-balled a wide open shot, so that's the answer [to the difficulty of playing in a mask]," he said.

"But it's whatever, it's just the circumstances. Four years ago I really complained about it, but it's a little different this year because I don't have to wear goggles – those were really annoying.

"It's still a big adjustment, but like I said, it really starts on defense, and on defense I don't need to see everything. On offense you need to see to knock down shots, but it's fine.

"These fractures are not going to heal for a couple weeks, so it's not going to change too much if I play now or Game 4, I just need to protect it as much as possible."

It was a defensive showcase by the Philadelphia 76ers in their 99-79 home win in Game 3 of their series against the Miami Heat.

With their season essentially on the line – as no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit – the 76ers were energised on the defensive end with the return of star Joel Embiid, who was wearing a protective mask to protect his fractured orbital bone.

It was the first time since January 2018 that the 76ers have held an opposing team under 80 points, when they beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-78.

In an incredibly low-scoring first half, the 76ers reached half-time with a 41-34 lead as James Harden carried the early offensive load, before cooling off in the second half to finish on 17 points (four-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds and six assists.

Embiid was solid in his return, commanding plenty of defensive attention to open up lanes for his teammates and putting in 18 points (five-of-12 shooting, eight-of-10 free throws) with 11 rebounds.

The real star of the show for the home side was Danny Green, who hit seven of his first eight three-point attempts for his equal team-high 21 points, sharing that figure with Tyrese Maxey, who had all of his 21 points in the second half.

Jimmy Butler was the only Miami starter to get into double figures, scoring a game-high 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting, while Tyler Herro was a disappointing five-of-15 from the field for his 14 points.

Game 4 will remain in Philadelphia before heading back to Miami for Game 5.

 

Mavericks make it a series

The Dallas Mavericks injected some life into their series against the Phoenix Suns, taking Game 3 103-94 at home to trail 2-1.

In an inspired defensive showing, Dallas held the Suns to quarter totals of 20, 24, 23 and 27, slowing the game down to a crawling pace at times as both sides hunted for the exact looks they were after.

Both teams shot a respectable 44 per cent from the field, while the Suns were more efficient from long range, shooting it at 46 per cent compared to the Mavericks' 33 per cent, but the hosts forced 17 turnovers while committing just eight.

While the Mavs were not at their best from deep, despite shooters Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combining for eight makes behind the arc, they compensated by dominating the interior, out-scoring the Suns 50-32 in the paint.

Luka Doncic was at his best with 26 points (11-of-25 shooting), adding 13 rebounds and nine assists, but it was Jalen Brunson who lifted the Mavericks to the victory.

After scoring a combined 22 points from 32 per cent shooting in Game 1 and Game 2, Brunson erupted for a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, with five assists and four rebounds.

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid will return from injury for Game 3 against the Miami Heat.

Embiid had been sidelined since a stray Pascal Siakam elbow in the last game of Philadelphia's first-round series against the Toronto Raptors fractured his orbital bone, meaning he will play in a protective mask.

He averaged a career-high 30.6 points per game this season along with 11.7 rebounds and a career-high 4.2 assists, and shot over 50 per cent from the field against the Raptors.

The 76ers had a record of 6-8 in the 14 regular season contests Embiid missed, and also dropped the first two games of their current series against Miami as he did not travel with the team for the Heat's opening home fixtures.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has passed concussion protocol and there is "optimism" about his participation in Friday's Game 3 against the Miami Heat, according to reports.

Embiid has not played so far in the second-round series, which the 76ers trail 2-0 after a defeat on Wednesday.

Tyrese Maxey did his best to make up for the Cameroonian's absence, scoring 34 points, but Heat center Bam Adebayo (23 points and nine rebounds) enjoyed another big night as Miami secured a 119-103 victory.

The 76ers will look to get on the board in Philadelphia on Friday, but doubts remain around the availability of their MVP candidate, who suffered a facial fracture and concussion against the Toronto Raptors in round one.

Embiid is currently listed as out for Game 3, but according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, he cleared concussion protocol earlier on Friday and also participated in the team's shootaround, with Charania saying there was "optimism" about his chances of featuring in Game 3.

Coach Doc Rivers was unable to offer any assurances on Thursday, telling reporters: "I really don't know [if Embiid can play].

"We talked [on Tuesday], and we talked [on Wednesday]. He looked good, as far as talking... we just have to wait and see."

In the first round against the Raptors, Embiid averaged 26.2 points per game across his six appearances, with 11.3 rebounds per game.

The Philadelphia 76ers still do not know if Joel Embiid will be able to return in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, as he still has "so many steps to go through".

Embiid has not played so far in the second-round series, in which the 76ers now trail 2-0 after another defeat on Wednesday.

Although Tyrese Maxey went off for 34 points, Heat center Bam Adebayo (23 points and nine rebounds) enjoyed another big night in Embiid's absence to inspire a 119-103 win.

The 76ers will hope to get on the board as they head home to Philadelphia, but they may again be without their MVP candidate, who suffered a facial fracture and concussion against the Toronto Raptors in round one.

Coach Doc Rivers could offer no assurances ahead of Game 3, as he told reporters: "I really don't know [if Embiid can play].

"We talked [on Tuesday], and we talked [on Wednesday]. He looked good, as far as talking.

"But he's got so many steps to go through, and I don't think he's cleared any of them right now. So, we just have to wait and see."

Despite the Heat's dominant start, coach Erik Spoelstra remains wary of the series-altering impact of a potential Embiid return.

"It changes dramatically," Spoelstra said. "You're talking about MVP talent, you know? So, we'll just have to see.

"We knew that this series was going to shift, and it was going to change pretty dramatically [if Embiid returns].

"It's better for it to change dramatically when we're able to get a couple wins, but yeah, he changes the equation quite a bit."

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