James Harden describes his status in Philadelphia as 'like being on a leash': 'I am a system, not a system player.'
With the Philadelphia 76ers in 2022-23, James Harden enjoyed a reasonably successful season.
e led the NBA in assists and received numerous votes for All-NBA accolades at the season's end, helping the team achieve the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and Joel Embiid win his first MVP award.
e did, however, average the fewest points per game (21) and had the lowest usage rate (25%) since becoming a full-time starter in 2012-13.
This shift in role appears to have irritated Harden. Harden spent the whole of the offseason pleading for a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, and during his introductory press conference on Thursday, he compared his role in Philadelphia to "being on a boat."
"Philly is just changing my role knowing I can give more, knowing I can do more, but if you want me to be honest, it's like being on a leash," Harden told reporters. "I knew that in order for us to get where we wanted to go, I was going to have to play my best offensively, whether it's facilitating and scoring the basketball, and Joel as well." I never had the opportunity either."
According to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, Harden placed second in the NBA in time with the ball last season, trailing only Luka Doncic. In Philadelphia, he was given numerous opportunities. Even so, it wasn't enough for him. "Someone who believes in me believes in me; I'm not a fool."
However, he joins Russell Westbrook, his former colleague, who set an all-time single-season usage rate record of 41.3% during the 2016-17 season. Both will have to defer to previous Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, the team's top player, and eight-time All-Star Paul George to some extent.
If touches were scarce in Philadelphia, they will be even scarcer with the Clippers. This is significant since Harden's former coach, Doc Rivers, felt that Harden's willingness to play team basketball was contingent on external approval.
"When playing right, I tell everyone to go back to the first half of last year where he gave himself to the team," Rivers remarked at the time. Furthermore, It is never easy to integrate a high-usage ball-handler into a team with multiple other big-name players. This necessitates tremendous sacrifice on the part of all parties concerned. If Harden expects to entirely dominate the Clippers offense, he's in for a difficult trip in L.A.
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