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James Harden: I Wasn't Right Last Season and I Still Almost Averaged a Triple-Double

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJuly 18, 2022

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

James Harden believes the concern about his play last season was overblown.

The Philadelphia 76ers guard spoke to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports over the weekend and said that his "down" season still would fare comparatively well to other stars around the league.

"I don't really listen to what people are saying. I wasn't right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double," Harden said. "If anybody else had those numbers, we'd be talking about them getting the max. People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That's just what it was. I'm in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I'm just looking forward to next season."

Harden averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 regular-season games with the Sixers after a midseason trade from the Brooklyn Nets. Those numbers dipped to 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds in the postseason, with Harden clearly struggling with his off-the-dribble burst.

The 2018 NBA MVP dealt with lingering hamstring pain throughout the 2021-22 season, which first cropped up during the 2021 playoffs in Brooklyn. He came into camp at less-than-ideal shape and was never able to play himself back into peak form.

The root of the issue may be Harden's age. He had shown up to camp above his typical playing weight before but had been able to quickly get himself into gear once the regular season began. As he approaches age 33, his body may not be responding as quickly as it did in the past.

Harden has been clearly committed to getting himself in peak form for next season, with the goal of a deep playoff run in mind. He's also made a financial commitment, taking a massive pay cut on his 2022-23 salary to give the Sixers the cap freedom to sign PJ Tucker and Danuel House.

"I think we have a much deeper team," Harden said. "That's something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we're positioned to go a lot further. I like how we stack up with the rest of the top teams."

If Harden shows up in peak shape and is able to recapture his prime level, he and Joel Embiid arguably form the NBA's top one-two tandem. Along with adding depth and toughness to the roster, that should be enough to get the Sixers on the shortlist of NBA Finals contenders.

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