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76ers' James Harden Says Getting Healthy, Returning to Elite Form Is His Top Priority

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJuly 14, 2022

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After a relatively disappointing 2021-22 season, James Harden said his priority this offseason is to get healthy.

The guard told Adrienne Faurote of Haute Time that he was limited by hamstring injuries the past two seasons:

"I've had the luxury of not having to deal with any serious injuries—with surgeries or whatnot—my entire career. But these last two years, I’ve been dealing with some hamstring issues, which are nothing to play with. So I’m taking this summer as an opportunity to do something for me, to make sure that I get back to the elite level that I know I can be at and that I will be at. So that’s priority No. 1."

Harden won three straight scoring titles from 2018-20, averaging 33.7 points per game during this stretch. The two years since have been a whirlwind with trades from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets and eventually to the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging just 23.1 points per game.

The 32-year-old declined his $47 million player option for 2022-23 and took a $15 million pay cut to return to the 76ers.

If Harden can return to form, the 76ers could be a legitimate title contender next season. Joel Embiid finished second in MVP voting, while Tyrese Maxey has proved to be one of the most exciting young point guards in the league. With veterans like Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker rounding out the roster, this team can match up with any in the NBA.

The pressure is still on Harden after a disappointing stretch with Philadelphia.

The guard filled up the stat sheet with 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game, but he lacked the efficiency and aggressiveness we have seen in the past. He made just 40.2 percent of his shots in 21 regular-season games with the Sixers that would have been the lowest of his career over a full season.

In the playoffs, Harden was third on the team with 18.6 points per game.

Hamstring problems could be part of the story as the 32-year-old missed about three weeks in February with the injury. His absences contributed to him being traded away from Brooklyn.

Getting back to full strength over the offseason could make him much more dangerous in 2022-23.

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