The Philadelphia crowds are known for holding grudges with departed stars, and James Harden has experienced both sides of this sentiment. The Harden-76ers saga was one of the dominant storylines of the last NBA offseason, with Harden eventually being traded to the LA Clippers. Harden has expressed that he does not care about how he will be received in Philadelphia, focusing on bigger problems within the team.

Harden’s time with the 76ers started with promise, but he faced challenges in adjusting his role to accommodate Joel Embiid’s play style. The rift between Harden and the 76ers began in the 2022 offseason when Harden became a free agent and signed a deal that allowed the team to make other signings. Despite some strong performances in the playoffs, rumors swirled about Harden’s potential interest in a return to Houston, which was quelled when the Rockets signed Fred VanVleet instead.

Tensions between Harden and the 76ers escalated when he opted into his player option to facilitate a trade to the Clippers, calling Daryl Morey a “liar” in the process. Despite a drawn-out trade process, Harden was eventually traded to the Clippers, ending his tumultuous chapter with the 76ers. Harden has faced scrutiny from fans and media, but has attempted to brush it off while remaining sensitive to the narrative around him. He has acknowledged the negative talk about him and noted the absence of those critics after recent successes.

Harden’s return to Philadelphia comes at a time when the Clippers are struggling, losing multiple games and falling in the Western Conference standings. While Harden has faced challenges with the Clippers, the team struggles when he is off the floor. Harden will need to find a way to improve the team’s performance on both ends of the court. Despite his indifference to the reception in Philadelphia, a desire to win there may still linger for Harden, who had once hoped to retire as a Sixer.

The absence of Harden in Philadelphia represents a void that the team has yet to fill, especially as they navigate through a season without Joel Embiid due to injury. The Sixers, once a top team in the Eastern Conference, are now fighting for a Play-In Tournament position. While Harden may be accustomed to fan scrutiny, winning in Philadelphia may provide a sense of validation for his tenure with the Clippers and his decision to leave the 76ers. Ultimately, Harden’s return to Philadelphia holds significance for both him and the team as they look towards the future.

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