James Harden didn't hold back in his first moments as a Philadelphia 76er.
It hasn't exactly been the most, erm, ceremonious exit for James Harden since he fled a championship contender in Brooklyn for a longstanding conference rival. There have been loads of subtle potshots from the Nets' end, from Blake Griffin arguing that the Nets acquired "guys that wanna play" (Harden missed 5 of his last 7 games with Brooklyn) to Bruce Brown recently saying, well, this:
"The locker room is just a great vibe in there right now. I don't know what it is. Everything just shifted after the trade deadline. Everybody likes everybody, it's just great" - Bruce Brown pic.twitter.com/NbClBB9bEk— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) February 15, 2022
Harden, never one to back down to a challenge, offered some chippy words of his own during his introductory presser as a member of the Sixers. According to Harden, Philadelphia was his "first choice" despite reporting from numerous national outlets that stated otherwise at the time of the Brooklyn-Houston blockbuster.
"Originally, when I was going through everything I was going through in Houston, Philly was my first choice, it just didn't happen," said Harden (ouch!).
"So just, detail... I don't really want to get into the Brooklyn situation. I just knew for a very long time, this is a perfect fit."
When asked to clarify those comments, Harden made it clear that he "had" (again, oof!) to go to Brooklyn by route of trade — a trade that his former team, the Rockets, was in the driver's seat for.
"Organizations gotta to do what's best for their their team, present and future. So, it didn't work like that," Harden said. "And, you know, I had to go to Brooklyn, which obviously, we all know, that could have been some special, but whatever reason it was. So here I am today."
Harden went on to confirm that he'll be picking up his player option for next season in Philadelphia. He also gave a shoutout to 76ers fans for being the "best" in the NBA, just days after escaping a loyal fanbase in Brooklyn (triple oof!).
"These fans are the best fans in NBA. You know, a lot of teams say that, a lot of organizations say that. A lot of fanbases say that, but ride or die, [these are] probably the best fans in the NBA, and I'm just happy they're on my side and I'm not getting booed as the opposing team," said Harden. "But I'm excited man, it's just the love, the atmosphere, just going into that arena is gonna be something special."
Here's some good news for 76ers fans: Harden's hamstring feels "real good." It was injury that had him sidelined for the final stretch of games in his Brooklyn tenure. The Beard isn't set to make his debut until after the All-Star break (he isn't playing in the big game itself, either), and for now, he's doing conditioning work to set himself up for success for Philadelphia's playoff run
"Just doing a lot of strengthening work right now," said Harden. "And then, my conditioning is great. And I've been doing a lot of running, a lot of sprints, a lot of treatment work. Strength and conditioning. But it's not unlike basketball conditioning, playing and playing 5-on-5 and pick-and-rolls and getting hit, things like that. So that's something that I got to incorporate. But overall, my body feels great."
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