LOS ANGELES — NBA star guard James Harden and Philadelphia 76ers are still finalizing the final details of a one-plus-one contract that will net him a $15 million deduction. But Harden said he’s “locked in” with the Sixers and eager to get to work.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Sports on Sunday, the 10-time All-Star revealed why he’s willing to sacrifice financially to improve the team, touched on off-season additions, discussed where he’s at physically, and talked about his partnership with Joel Embiid foot the launch of his first wine group Characteristic of him, “J-Harden”.
At the conclusion of the Sixers’ 2021-22 season, depth was identified as a significant and obvious weakness. Harden and Sixers, head of basketball operations, Daryl Morey had talks shortly after about how the team could make the jump next season.
“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could improve and what the market value of some of the players was. I asked Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we need to sign for and give me all the rest,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “That’s how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all I care about at this point. I’m willing to take a little to put us in a position to make it happen.”
The Sixers signed defensive specialist PJ Tucker away from Miami for three years, $33 million; bowler signed Daniel House for two years, $8.5 million; De’Anthony Melton’s combo guard picked up via trade; He signed Trevelin Queen, the 2021-22 League Player of the Year award.
“I think we have a much deeper team,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “This is something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we are in a position to go even further. I love the way we are teaming up with the rest of the top teams.”
In order for the Sixers to reach their full potential, Harden will have to get back close to his usual dominant figure. The 2018 player of the year dealt with several ailments last season, including a severe right hamstring injury.
He was heavily criticized for playing during the 21 regular season games he played in Philadelphia after he was traded from Brooklyn. His stats haven’t equaled his standard attacking blasts, but the 32-year-old veteran is still averaging 21 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists in the Sixers.
“I don’t really listen to what people say. I didn’t do well last season and I still got about a triple-double average,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “If anyone else had those numbers, we’d be talking about them getting the max. People used to see me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they were looking at it as a drop year. I was in Philadelphia for two months and I had to learn fast.” That’s just what it was. I’m in a good space both physically and mentally now, and I’m just looking forward to next season.”
Harden and fellow co-star Embiid will be tasked with getting everyone on the same page.
“I speak with Joel frequently and we have meetings about how we’re going to play and what we need to do to help our team win the championship,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “When you have two of the best players in their positions on the same team, that is a great building block. We will grow together and try to lead this team to the top. I think we can do that together.”
Meanwhile, Harden is exploring his projects off the field.
It has teamed up with Accolade Wines to release its first wine, “J-Harden,” which is set to be available for purchase online and through leading US retailers starting in September. 1. The retail value is expected to be $16.99.
“Harden and his team will also play a role in the wine’s creative direction, design and style. The J-HARDEN brand will feature Harden’s iconic beard in vivid color and floral design within the silhouette of Harden’s face,” according to a press release.” In NBA history, Harden plans to share his personal journey in wine with fans on his social media accounts and introduce J-HARDEN to retailers and shoppers around the world.”
“I wanted to make affordable wine, but I also had some booty in it,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “If you look at our bottle design, you’ll find that it stands out. It has some swag to it. It’s different from all of our other pretty similar wine bottles. We wanted it to stand out and then get you hooked on how great it tastes. We have the California Cabernet Sauvignon and the California Red Blend.” So we’ve got something for all wine connoisseurs. I’m really excited about this opportunity. I think consumers will really love this.”
Customers can register for first edition access to “J-HARDEN” at www.j-hardenwines.com.