James Harden is not expected to make his 2023-24 season debut in the Sixers’ home opener.
Harden was officially listed as out Sunday afternoon before the team’s matchup against the Trail Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center. He also missed the first two games of the season while being called “reconditioning for return to competition.”
The 34-year-old guard returned to the Sixers on Wednesday after a 10-day absence. According to a team official, he was not with the team for personal reasons. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said Harden is “back in the rebuilding phase” and that the team has asked the 10-time All-Star to work out at its training complex in Camden, New Jersey, instead of participating in its two-game road trip.
Nurse called it an “everyday” situation with Harden requesting a trade this summer. He said the Sixers’ medical staff will determine when Harden is ready to play.
Joel Embiid (rest) was also listed as questionable by the Sixers for the second night in a row. Embiid played 36 minutes in the Sixers’ loss to the Bucks on Thursday and 35 minutes in the win over the Raptors on Saturday.
The big superstar sat out the Sixers’ first three preseason games and didn’t perform the best in terms of conditioning. Embiid still had an excellent performance in Toronto, posting 34 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.
If Embiid doesn’t play, Paul Reed would be a clear candidate for the starting role. Rookie Filip Petrušev or Mo Bamba would probably also join the rotation. Although Bamba is a talented shot blocker with five years of NBA experience, Petrušev was the better player in the preseason.
Sunday’s game is the first of a five-game homestand for the Sixers. They’ll try to get to 2-1 and beat a Portland team 0-3 against Anfernee Simons (torn UCL on his right thumb).
The duel pits 22-year-old Tyrese Maxey against 19-year-old Blazers guard Scoot Henderson, the No. 3 pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Maxey was great in the Sixers’ first two games, scoring a total of 65 points and shooting 58.8 percent from three-point range. In 81 minutes of play he had 15 assists and one turnover.