Report: Harden declines $47.4M option, intends to return to 76ers
However, Harden is reportedly still focused on returning to Philadelphia to compete for a title next season.
By opting out, Harden affords the 76ers added flexibility in signing free agents. Depending on the terms of his new deal, Philadelphia could have the full $10.5-million non-taxpayer exception to entice potential additions.
The 32-year-old guard's decision aligns with his comments following the 76ers' conference semifinals Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat, which ended their season. When asked if he would take less than a max deal this summer, Harden told reporters he would do "whatever it takes" to stay in Philadelphia long term and help the team improve the roster around him and star center Joel Embiid.
Harden reportedly began offseason workouts and on-court work two weeks after Philadelphia's season ended May 12, representing a much quicker return to training than usual for the 10-time All-Star, according to Charania.
The 76ers acquired the 2018 MVP plus Paul Millsap from the Brooklyn Nets at the February trade deadline in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks. In 65 combined games between the Nets and 76ers last season, Harden averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in 37.2 minutes per game.
However, the Los Angeles native struggled to find consistency in the postseason, registering 18.6 points, 8.6 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game across 12 playoff contests. With Philadelphia's season on the line in Game 6 against the Heat, Harden shot 4-of-9 from the floor and didn't convert a single field goal in the second half, finishing with 11 points. He also didn't attempt any free throws in the encounter, marking his only game in the 2022 postseason without a trip to the charity stripe.