WATCH: Joel Embiid Drops Truth Bomb on James Harden With a Brutal Reality Check After 76ers Get Eliminated By Heat

Published 05/13/2022, 7:48 AM EDT
May 8, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) reacts with center Joel Embiid (21) after a score against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers will be going back to the drawing board after being ousted from the playoffs by the Miami Heat. 

Joel Embiid was ecstatic when the Sixers acquired James Harden and eventually traded Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets. The big man had never played alongside an offensive virtuoso like him before, and the pairing of Joel Embiid and James Harden seemed to be lethal on paper. However, everything came crashing down into a slump.

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Following the Sixers’ season-ending defeat, in which Harden tallied only 11 points, none of which came in the second half, Embiid spoke bluntly about his teammate. “Obviously, since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden, but that’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a playmaker”, Embiid said. That “That’s not who he is anymore” had to sting The Beard in what was a brutal reality check. 

Fair to say, Joel Embiid didn’t expect his new teammate to arrive in the playoffs with that poor mindset. The Sixers’ big man anticipated that their tandem will be unstoppable. We’ve seen in the past that pairing exceptional centers with elite guards who can create and draw attention on the perimeter is a winning formula. The sort of 2-man game seen with Embiid and Harden has rarely failed to go deep. However, it didn’t work out for the Sixers this playoffs.

Harden averaged 21 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 10.5 assists in 21 regular-season games with the Sixers. He was averaging 19.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists in this year’s playoffs coming into Thursday’s Game 6. Fair to conclude, these numbers prove that Harden is definitely a shadow of his former self in Houston. 

What’s wrong with James Harden?

Houston Rockets’ James Harden was one of the best players in the league and a nightmare on offense. During his heydays, the former MVP was in attack mode on every single possession; however, it is what the Beard lacks now. 

Harden’s first step used to be the foundation of his game. He may have it some nights and some nights he won’t, but it is his conditioning that has shifted the balance more towards the latter. 

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James had mastered the ability to lure his opponents in and blow-by. His ability to accelerate and decelerate made him a formidable cover night in and night out. He could shoot above you, but when he consistently slipped by his defenses at that size, it placed them in a bind and made him difficult to guard one on one.

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However, James Harden’s poor approach and lack of conditioning caused him to falter in these playoffs. Nonetheless, this offseason might help Harden to come back with a tougher attitude and greater conditioning. It would be pivotal for Philly’s ambitions and Harden’s desire to win a title before hanging his jersey. 

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Ritvik Malhotra

41 articles

Ritvik is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Having completed his Bachelor's in Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University, Ritvik has finally got his foot in the door as a professional sports writer. He previously interned at another media house where he authored over 150 soccer articles, but he is now writing about his primary obsession, basketball.

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