James Harden is getting closer and closer to his season debut.
At least that’s how it seems after his recent saga with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Harden attended the 76ers’ home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday and was on the bench with the team, marking the first time he played a game for the franchise this season. Although he didn’t play in the 76ers’ 126-98 win, Harden took part in the team’s video work and walkthrough before Sunday’s game at Wells Fargo Center.
Head coach Nick Nurse said Harden will likely return to the team for practice on Tuesday, although it is still unclear when he will play in a game.
“James was here,” Nurse said before the game, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “He was here for the film session and the walkthrough. The report on him states that he has had a few good days of conditioning, is still in the preparation phase and hopes to be back in training on Tuesday. That’s about where we’re at.”
Harden has made it very clear that he no longer wants to be with the 76ers. He picked up the $35.6 million option on his contract last offseason in the expectation that the team would trade him elsewhere, but that hasn’t happened yet. Harden also called 76ers basketball president Daryl Morey a “liar” at an event in China in August, resulting in a $100,000 fine.
Harden’s preferred destination is the Los Angeles Clippers, but they reportedly paused trade talks with the 76ers when the season began last week.
Harden spent 10 days away from the Sixers during training camp and preseason but returned to the team on Wednesday. He was then reportedly blocked by a security guard from boarding the team’s plane, which was traveling for a two-game season opener. This decision was reportedly made so as not to disrupt the rest of the team. According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. The NBA has since launched an investigation into his absence to “determine whether there is an established reason for his lack of participation.”
The 76ers entered Sunday’s game with a 1-1 record, having lost their opener to the Milwaukee Bucks before picking up a seven-point win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. After a near triple-double from Joel Embiid, they secured the 28-point victory over the Trail Blazers. He had 35 points and 15 rebounds with seven assists on the night. Tyrese Maxey also added 26 points and 10 rebounds and Tobias Harris finished the game with 24 points.
The 76ers have Monday off. Assuming Harden actually practices on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, it’s possible he could appear in his first game on Thursday night when the 76ers host the Raptors – which marks the second of five home games. But considering how things have gone between Harden and the organization so far this fall, it’s still unclear when he’ll actually be back on court in Philadelphia.