PHILADELPHIA (AP) — James Harden picked up his $35.6 million contract option for next season with the Philadelphia 76ers, with the franchise exploring trades to move the veteran scorer, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.
Harden informed the 76ers of his choice Thursday ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline to pick up the option, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the decision was not made public.
The 33-year-old Harden could have declined the option and decided to try for free agency. The Sixers had the right to offer him a $210 million, four-year deal, $8 million more overall than any other team.
But the person who talked to the AP on anonymity Thursday said it while it wasn’t definite Harden would be traded, the player nicknamed The Beard expressed a desire to win a championship — which he has yet to do in his career that dates to his 2009 rookie season — in Philadelphia or with another contender.
The 76ers, per league rules, could not talk contract with Harden’s representatives before Friday and they were set to abide by the terms after they were found guilty of tampering last offseason and ultimately stripped of second-round draft picks.
The stage, though, seems set for yet another blockbuster Harden trade after he forced his way out of Houston and Brooklyn.
BREAKING: 76ers G James Harden is picking up his $35.6 million option and sides are beginning to work together in exploring trade scenarios, sources tell ESPN. It’s expected that Harden has played his last game for Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/GguWgysfNZ— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2023
Nick Nurse, hired last month as Philadelphia’s coach, has stumped for Harden’s return.
“James has a decision to make, and I’d be very happy if he came back,” Nurse said this month.
Sixers forward Tobias Harris, himself in a bit of a contract quandary this summer and a perfect package fit in a Harden trade, said this week he wanted Harden back on the team.