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James Harden joins 76ers on the bench for home opener, expected to practice Tuesday

James Harden joins 76ers on the bench for home opener, expected to practice Tuesday

Ryan Young

James Harden is getting closer to making his season debut.

At least, after his latest saga with the Philadelphia 76ers, that’s what it seems like.

Harden attended the 76ers’ home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday and sat with the team on the bench, marking the first time he’s been with the franchise for a game this season. Though he didn’t play in the 76ers’ 126-98 win, Harden participated in the team’s video work and walkthrough before the game at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.

Head coach Nick Nurse said Harden will likely rejoin the team for practice Tuesday, though it’s still unclear when he will play in a game.

“James was here,” Nurse said before the game, via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He was here for the film session and walkthrough. The report on him is he had some good conditioning days, still in the ramp-up process, looking to have him back in practice on Tuesday. That’s about where we are with that.”

James Harden and Tyrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers react during the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, on Oct. 29, 2023. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

James Harden and Tyrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers react during the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, on Oct. 29, 2023. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Harden has made it very clear he doesn’t want to be with the 76ers anymore. He picked up the $35.6 million option on his contract this past offseason with the expectation that the team would trade him elsewhere, but that’s yet to happen. Harden also called 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey a “liar” at an event in China in August, which prompted a $100,000 fine.

Harden’s preferred destination is the Los Angeles Clippers, but they reportedly paused trade talks with the 76ers as the season got going last week.

Harden spent 10 days away from the Sixers during training camp and the preseason, but he rejoined the team Wednesday. He was then reportedly stopped by a security official from boarding the team’s plane for their two-game road trip to open the season. That decision was reportedly done to avoid disrupting the rest of the team, according to Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. The NBA has since opened an investigation into his absence, too, to “determine whether an approved reason exists 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 grabbing a seven-point win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. They cruised to the 28-point win over the Trail Blazers behind a near-triple-double from Joel Embiid. He had 35 points and 15 rebounds with seven assists on the night. Tyrese Maxey added 26 points and 10 rebounds, too, and Tobias Harris finished with 24 points.

The 76ers are off Monday. Assuming Harden actually practices Tuesday and again Wednesday, it’s possible he could appear in his first game Thursday night when the 76ers host the Raptors — which marks the second of a five-game homestand. But considering how things have gone between Harden and the organization so far this fall, it’s still anybody’s guess as to when he actually takes the court again in Philadelphia.

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