ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.
Harden had been away from the Sixers because of a personal matter, a team official said last week. He hadn’t practiced with the team since Oct. 15.
Two days prior, the 34-year-old spoke to reporters for the first time this season, addressing his trade request and fractured relationship with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. Harden said he would “try to play” the Sixers’ preseason finale, but he wound up appearing in zero preseason games.
New Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said Monday that he’d recently texted Harden “just seeing how he’s doing, seeing if he’s all right, and he did text me back.” Nurse said the two didn’t cover whether Harden would ultimately return to the Sixers.
Nurse said Wednesday that Harden won't travel with the Sixers for their season-opening two-game road trip. The team will play the Bucks on Thursday night and the Raptors on Saturday. Their home opener is Sunday night vs. the Trail Blazers at Wells Fargo Center.
“He’s been gone for 10 days, so we are in ramp-up phase again," Nurse said. “Like we would normally do, he will stay here and get on-court work with our staff and with our players from the Blue Coats and our two-way guys. ... Try to get him ramped up as soon as we can.”
NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark reported late Wednesday afternoon that Harden showed up for the Sixers' flight to Milwaukee but left the airport before the team's departure.
I’m told James Harden showed up for the Sixers team flight to depart for Milwaukee this afternoon. Source says the Sixers front office once again told James they want him to ramp up to get ready to play and the plan is for James to report to the Sixers training facility in Camden… pic.twitter.com/RqLK307n7s
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 25, 2023
There's no exact timeline yet on Harden's return, according to Nurse, who said a decision on the 10-time All-Star's readiness would come down to Sixers vice president of athlete care Simon Rice and the team's medical staff.
“I would say that we are probably going to have to evaluate this in these next couple of sessions," Nurse said. “I would say it’s back to our day-by-day situation — maybe two day-by-day right now. Just to see what the information tells us in two days.”
Whatever’s next in the Harden saga, the Sixers will try to focus on starting 1-0.
“I think everybody understands that we have a job to do and we’re here to win,” Embiid said last Friday night following the Sixers’ preseason win over the Hawks. “The moment that we’re not on the same page, then that becomes a problem. But I think everybody’s on the same page.
“The goal is to try to win, no matter who’s here. We’re just here to work and trying to get better every single day. … That’s all I care about, is winning. What does it take to win? What’s going to get me there and who’s going to help me? That’s all I care about.”
Nurse gave a positive assessment of the Sixers before the team's opener, downplaying any potential issues related to Harden.
“My concerns right now are really going to be focused on the game tomorrow night," he said. “We’ve put a lot into this and we’re in a great space mentally, preparation-wise and all that stuff. If there’s any concerns ... then we’ll handle them.
“But I really think our guys are not very affected by it. They’re working hard, they’re extremely focused, they’re getting through the game plans at a really good rate. So I’m happy with where we are.”