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James Harden to Opt Out of Contract, Intends to Return to 76ers, per Report

76ers guard James Harden will reportedly decline his $47.4 million player option for the 2022–23 season and plans to return to Philly on a contract in free agency that provides the team financial flexibility to improve the roster, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

With Harden taking a reduced salary, the franchise is available to offer free agents the $10.5 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception without having to make any additional moves. Philadelphia acquired the 10-time All-Star in a blockbuster trade deal in February, sending Ben Simmons to the Nets.

Even before league’s trade deadline, Morey felt Harden gave the 76ers the best chance to win a championship. However, Miami defeated Philadelphia through six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

While Harden averaged 22 points, 10,3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game in the regular season, his numbers dropped in the postseason. in 12 playoff games, Harden averaged 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Following the conclusion of the 2021–22 season, Morey’s “plan” has been to ensure that Harden remained with the franchise. 

As Harden plans to return to Philadelphia, reports have surfaced that the 76ers guard returned to his on-court regimen earlier this offseason than in previous years, putting his full attention on ensuring the franchise is in the best chance to go after a NBA championship, per Charania.

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