Sixers' James Harden says he told Daryl Morey to improve team, 'give me whatever is left over'

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Harden: 'I told Daryl to improve the roster ... give me whatever is left over' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

At least on paper, the Sixers have checked the main boxes they hoped to this offseason, adding players who upgrade the team’s depth, defense and toughness.

That would have been a lot trickier to accomplish if James Harden had exercised his player option of approximately $47.4 million.

In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Harden recounted discussing the Sixers’ roster situation with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

“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 Haynes. “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.”

Hours after acquiring combo guard De’Anthony Melton from the Grizzlies on the night of the NBA draft, Morey said the following about negotiations with Harden: “Well, we can’t talk yet. I would expect … actually, I don’t know. We’ll have conversations with him. As you guys have heard, it’s a mutual love fest, so we feel like we’ll work it out.”

Unsurprisingly, Morey hit retweet on Haynes’ story late Sunday night.

The exact terms of Harden’s new deal haven’t been finalized — both sides will tell you it involves a significant Year 1 pay cut, of course — but there’s no suspense about whether the 32-year-old is staying with the Sixers. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported July 8 that Harden is “taking a $15 million pay cut for next season” and plans to sign a two-year contract with a player option in the second season. Haynes wrote Sunday night that Harden and the Sixers are “still ironing out the final details.”

If Harden had accepted his option, the Sixers would not have had a clear path toward signing two of his former teammates in P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. using the standard mid-level exception and bi-annual exception, respectively.

Adding two-way players was important for the Sixers, although much of their 2022-23 season will likely ride on the two players with 15 combined All-Star appearances. Joel Embiid has back-to-back MVP runner-up finishes and also won the NBA's scoring title last season. Harden has three of those on his résumé.

“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 Haynes. “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.”

Along those same lines, Harden has spent time this summer working out with backcourt mate Tyrese Maxey. The Sixers expect that duo to have far more than their current 21 games together before next year’s playoffs begin.