Philadelphia 76ers free agent star James Harden is returning to the franchise on a new two-year, $68.6 million contract, including a player option for the 2023-24 season, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
The deal guarantees Harden $33 million for next season and the opportunity to decline his $35.6 million player option and negotiate another free agent deal next summer, sources said.
Harden, who had declined a $47.4 million player option for next season, delivered the 76ers salary-cap flexibility with his pay cut for 2022-23 — allowing them to sign free agents P.J. Tucker and Danuel House by using the midlevel and biannual exceptions, and facilitating the ability to acquire De’Anthony Melton in a draft night trade with Memphis.
Harden — a 10-time All-Star and a six-time first-team All-NBA guard — told Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey that he wanted to do his part to fortify the team’s roster and give it a better chance to compete for a championship. And declining that $47.4 million player option could also give the organization flexibility to make deals once this coming season is underway.
The franchise is hopeful Harden’s commitment to winning will include him returning to preseason training camp in better physical condition than he played in both Brooklyn and Philadelphia last season.
Harden, who turns 33 next month, averaged 22 points and 10.3 assists across 65 games with the Nets and Sixers. Brooklyn traded him to Philly in February as part of a blockbuster deal that included Ben Simmons joining the Nets. For the fourth time in five years, though, the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
Harden spent only a year in Brooklyn, after his wildly successful eight-year run in Houston ended near the start of the 2020-21 season, when he was sent to partner with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Nets for a significant package of draft assets and players. After a second-round loss to the Milwaukee Bucks two years ago, Harden’s relationship with the Nets deteriorated in the wake of Irving’s inability to play in New York due to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In Philadelphia, Harden was reunited with former Rockets general manager Morey, and they worked together to find a way to keep Harden a Sixer on this new deal and improve the franchise’s roster this summer.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.