CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — James Harden wrapped a resistance band around his upper torso and took off. He sprinted the length of the basketball court and repeated the drill designed to build strength and endurance.
With the 76ers in championship-or-bust mode, Harden needs both traits if he wants to carry the team into June.
But parade talk can wait: Philly is in a tizzy over Harden’s impending home debut. Almost three weeks since he was acquired in a trade, two road games, billboards welcoming his arrival, and a spawning cottage industry of “Beard” T-shirts later, Harden will finally play in Philly for the Sixers on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks.
Much like the beard that’s as synonymous with Harden as his skillful scoring, anticipation is growing.
So are ticket prices.
The cheap seats start at $100 on the secondary market and the Wells Fargo Center will surely have a playoff feel for what would have been an otherwise routine weeknight game without Harden.
“It’s going to be turnt in there,” Harden said over the weekend, “and I’m ready for it.”
Harden was the last Sixer off the court after Tuesday’s practice, sharing laughs with All-Star center Joel Embiid and jamming to music during shooting drills with assistant coach Sam Cassell.
“The city’s excited. We’re excited,” coach Doc Rivers said.
With good reason.
Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, in his short sample size has impressed as expected. He had 27 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in his debut against Minnesota and followed with 29 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds against the Knicks. The number that matters most: 2-0. The issue that matters most: Philly is free of the Ben Simmons saga that weighed on the franchise until the All-Stars were traded for each other.
“This is not a forced-together team. This is a want-to-be-together team,” Rivers said. “We get to be together and we want to be together. I think that’s a good thing.”