Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers called James Harden a “scoring magic Johnson” after the Superstar Guard led his team to a win over the Detroit Pistons. Harden is enjoying a productive season as he aims to return to his best form and lead the 76ers to the NBA Finals.
Earlier in the season, Harden admitted he needed some adjustment time after moving to Philadelphia from the Brooklyn Nets. He was singled out by critics for not effectively teaming with star player Joel Embiid, who is enjoying a season of MVP caliber.
However, Harden has found consistency in his performances and excels. On Sunday, the 33-year-old hit a triple-double against the Detroit Pistons with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in just 28 minutes as the 76ers clinched a 123-111 away win.
Philadelphia coach Rivers was delighted with Harden’s performance and compared his game to that of NBA legend Magic Johnson. Johnson is considered by many to be the greatest point guard in NBA history, having won three MVP awards and five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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“I hate to use that example, but when he plays like that, it’s like having a scoring Magic Johnson on the floor,” Rivers told reporters after the game. “If he runs our team at this pace and scores and gets assists then we’re really good.”
Harden’s fine form helped the 76ers to a 24-15 record after taking a huge preseason pay cut to help the team sign players and fight for an NBA championship. The 2018 MVP has signed a new two-year deal with the 76ers worth $68m (£57.2m) after releasing his $47m (£39.5m) player option for the current season had declined.
Harden took the significant pay cut for the upcoming season to help the Sixers fill out the rest of their roster with better players. The 76ers eventually used the extra cap space to sign PJ Tucker and Danuel House — two of Harden’s former teammates when he played for the Houston Rockets — along with Trevelin Queen.
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Harden is clearly determined to win in Philadelphia, but it must be remembered that if things take a turn for the worse, the signing may only last for one season. He will have an opportunity to back out of his deal and achieve an unrestricted free hand next summer.
He has been linked with a return to the Houston Rockets, although he has recently downplayed such reports. The 76ers will certainly be hoping a revamped roster, coupled with a healthy Harden and a leading star in Embiid, can pull them out of the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
Philadelphia last won a championship in 1983 – and the 2022-23 season marks the 40th anniversary of that title triumph. Haerten and Co. will continue their journey into the postseason with another duel against the Pistons on Tuesday night.