76ers' Georges Niang Talks Joel Embiid, James Harden's 'Tough' Balancing Act

Doric SamJune 7, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 8: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers talk during Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 8, 2022 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers were hoping that the duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid would lead the team to postseason success this year, but things didn't play out as expected.

The Sixers were sent home in the second round, falling to the Miami Heat, and Harden and Embiid noticeably struggled to develop any consistent chemistry.

While speaking on an episode of The Ryen Russillo Podcast, Philadelphia forward Georges Niang discussed the tricky dynamic between the team's two star players. Niang explained that Embiid simply wasn't the type of center that Harden was used to playing with, and the lack of practice time together didn't help matters.

"It's an adjustment, right? James is playing with centers like Clint Capela, who's rolling to the rim. You know, not an ISO center like Joel or someone that catches it on the block," Niang said. "So sometimes James would get caught up, you know, trying to ISO and Joel is posting up and—what it really was is, you need chemistry and practice time and we didn’t have a lot of that considering when the trade went down."

The Sixers acquired Harden in February at the trade deadline in a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets as part of the package for Ben Simmons. In 21 regular-season games, Harden averaged 21 points on 40.2 percent shooting from the field and 32.6 percent from three-point range.

Harden's production dipped further in the postseason. He averaged 18.6 points in 12 games and he failed to reach the 20-point mark in four out of the six contests in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Heat.

Niang blamed Harden's struggles on a lack of clarity on his role within Philadelphia's offense.

"So there's a tough blend to find: Alright, when are we going to have James, you know, come off and ISO and have the lane open with Joel out there," Niang said. "Or when are we going to have James be a creator and playmaker for other guys and put Joel in a pick-and-roll or different things like that, or space the floor. So it was a tough dynamic."

Harden has a $47.37 million player option for the 2022-23 season remaining on his contract, and he indicated after the Sixers' playoff loss that he intends to remain in Philadelphia. Niang said he believes that a full summer together will work wonders towards fixing the chemistry issues within the team.

"He’s catching a lot of heat from other people and they're like, 'He needs to be better,'" Niang said. "But at the end of the day, when he has a full summer to get his legs up under him and you know obviously we have time to practice with training camp, I think it's going to be a lot better."