New 76ers Coach Nick Nurse Wants James Harden to Return

New 76ers Coach Nick Nurse Wants James Harden to Return

Edwin Kiplagat
June 2, 2023 at 3:35 PM
  • New Philadelphia 76ers coach Nick Nurse wants James Harden to return to the team
  • Harden has a player option for the 2023/24 season and can be a free agent if he declines it
  • There have been rumors about Harden's desire to return to his former team, Houston rockets

Newly appointed Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse said he would be "happy" if James Harden returned to the team next season rather than sign with another team.

The veteran guard inked a two-year, $68.6 million contract to remain with Philadelphia last offseason, but he has a player option for 2023/24, meaning he can become a free agent this offseason if he declines it.

James Harden, Nick Nurse, Joel Embiid, Doc Rovers, Boston Celtics
James Harden was inconsistent in the playoffs. Photos by Tim Nwachukwu and Rocky Widner/NBAE.
Source: Getty Images

There has been plenty of speculation about Harden's possibility of returning to his former team Houston Rockets. He had an up-and-down postseason and received criticism for his Game 7 performance in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics.

He had two 40-point games in that series but shot 5-of-28 in Games 2 and 3, 4-of-16 in Game 6, and 3-of-11 in the season-ending Game 7, per Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 33-year-old had an NBA-leading 10.7 assists per game while also averaging 21 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Nurse wants Harden back

16 minutes into his introductory press conference, Nurse was asked about Harden.

James Harden’s a great player,” Nurse said, “I would say this: James has a decision to make, and I’d be very happy if he came back.”

Nurse, whose successful five-year tenure with the Toronto Raptors ended, said if Harden wants to win, he should stay with the Sixers.

"Winning has to be the sell, right?" Nurse said Thursday during his introductory news conference at the team's practice facility. "Can we be good enough to win it all? That's got to be a goal of his...And if it is, then he should stay here and play for us, because I think there's a possibility of that," via ESPN.

The Rockets traded Harden to Brooklyn Nets during the 2020/21 season, and he was then dealt from Brooklyn to Philadelphia in February 2022 in a trade that saw Ben Simmons moved to the Nets, per Bleacher Report.

Nurse has a difficult job of helping the Sixers get over the second-round hump. Their season has ended in the semifinals in five of the past six seasons.

Harden's highest-scoring playoff games

Sports Brief earlier looked at Harden's best playoff games after scoring 45 points against the Celtics.

He scored 45 against the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and 44 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden also dropped 43 against the San Antonio Spurs in 2017 and 41 against the Warriors in 2018.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Editor- Other Sports