James Harden reportedly picking up $35.6M player option, will work with 76ers on trade out of Philadelphia

James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers will look for a trade for the one-time NBA MVP. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

OCT. 31 UPDATE: The Philadelphia 76ers reportedly traded James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers early Tuesday morning, according to multiple reports.

One-time NBA MVP James Harden is picking up his $35.6 million player option with the 76ers in anticipation of working with the team on a trade out of Philadelphia, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks are expected to pursue trade dialogue with the Sixers, according to Wojnarowski. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported "the 76ers made it clear throughout the process that the franchise did not see a long-term future with Harden."

Harden is not extension eligible this offseason, per Spotrac's Keith Smith, since he signed a two-year deal last offseason with the Sixers. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Harden, who turns 34 years old in August, averaged 21 points, a league-high 10.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game for the Sixers this past season, making his 10th straight All-Star appearance. A strained tendon in his right foot and a sore left Achilles tendon cost him 24 games during the regular season and a possible All-NBA appearance — a growing trend in his career. Soft-tissue injuries also sidelined Harden in his two previous seasons, and he has not made an All-NBA roster since he was on the Houston Rockets in 2020.

The postseason has been no kinder to Harden. In his lone playoff appearance for the Brooklyn Nets, a strained right hamstring severely limited him in a 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and he cited a strained left hamstring for his poor performance in Philadelphia's second-round loss to the Miami Heat a year later. There was no excuse but age for this year's effort over four conference finals losses to the Boston Celtics (12.5 points per game on 21.8% shooting from the field and 12.5% from deep).

Harden has played for three different teams since January 2021. He has torched superstar partnerships with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving over the past seven years, all because his preferred playing style requires him to hold the ball for entire possessions. Leaving Philadelphia would mean adding Joel Embiid, the league's reigning MVP, to his list of former teammates.

Doc Rivers called coaching Harden this past season "challenging" on a recent Bill Simmons podcast.

"We were fighting two things," said Rivers, who cited Harden's age as a primary reason for his penchant to stagnate an offense. "James is so good at playing one way, and the way I believe you have to play to win, in some ways, is different, because it's a lot of giving up the ball, moving the ball, coming back to the ball."

The Sixers fired Rivers and replaced him with former Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse this offseason.

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