LOS ANGELES — Superstar NBA guard James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers are still ironing out the final details of a one-plus-one contract that will see him take a $15 million discount. But Harden said he is “locked in” with the Sixers and eager to get to work.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Sports on Sunday, the 10-time All-Star revealed why he was willing to sacrifice financially for the betterment of the team, he touched on the offseason additions, discussed where he’s at physically, spoke on his partnership with Joel Embiid and he introduced the launch of his first signature wine collection, “J-Harden.”
At the conclusion of the Sixers’ 2021-22 season, depth was identified as a significant, glaring weakness. Harden and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey held conversations soon after about how the team could make a jump going into the next season.
“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”
The Sixers signed defensive specialist P.J. Tucker away from Miami for three years, $33 million; signed shooter Danuel House to two years, $8.5 million; picked up combo guard De’Anthony Melton via a trade; and signed Trevelin Queen, the 2021-22 G League MVP.
“I think we have a much deeper team,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “That’s something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we’re positioned to go a lot further. I like how we stack up with the rest of the top teams.”
In order for the Sixers to reach their full potential, Harden will have to return close to his usual dominant self. The 2018 MVP dealt with numerous ailments last season, including a delicate right hamstring injury.
He took a rash of criticism for his play during the 21 regular season games he played in Philadelphia after he was traded from Brooklyn. His statistics didn’t equate to his standard offensive explosions, yet the 32-year-old veteran still averaged 21 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists with the Sixers.
“I don’t really listen to what people are saying. I wasn’t right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “If anybody else had those numbers, we’d be talking about them getting the max. People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That’s just what it was. I’m in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I’m just looking forward to next season.”
Harden and fellow superstar Embiid will be tasked with getting everyone on the same page.
“I talk with Joel frequently and we have meetings about how we’re going to play and what we need to do to help our team win a championship,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “When you have two of the top players at their positions on the same team, that’s a great building block. We’re going to grow together and try to lead this team to the top. I believe we can do it together.”
In the meantime, Harden is exploring his off-court ventures.
He teamed up with Accolade Wines to release his first signature wine, “J-Harden,” set to be available for purchase online and through leading retailers in the United States starting Sept. 1. The retail value is expected to be $16.99.
“Harden and his team will also have a role in the wine’s creative direction, design and style. J-HARDEN’s label will include the likeness of Harden’s iconic beard with bright colors and a floral design inside a silhouette of Harden’s face,” according to a news release. “As a 10-time NBA All-Star and third-leading 3-point scorer in NBA history, Harden plans to share his personal wine journey with fans on his social media accounts and introduce J-HARDEN to retailers and shoppers worldwide.”
“I wanted to create a wine that was affordable, but also had some swag to it,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “If you look at the design of our bottle, it stands out. It has some swag to it. It’s different from all the other wine bottles that are pretty much the same. We wanted it to stand out and then we’ll get you hooked with how great it tastes. We have California Cabernet Sauvignon and a California Red Blend. So we got something for all wine connoisseurs. I’m really excited for this opportunity. I think consumers are really going to love this.”
Customers can register for first release access to “J-HARDEN” at www.j-hardenwines.com.