It’s been four decades since the Philadelphia 76ers, who have qualified for the NBA playoffs for six straight seasons and bowed out in the conference semifinals in five of those trips, won a championship. A huge reason for the title drought in Philly is that “The Process” of tanking for draft picks which was undertaken long ago by former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie never really worked all that well. It did end up netting Philadelphia reigning league MVP Joel Embiid and seemed to also pay off when Ben Simmons beat out Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum for Rookie of the Year, but Simmons went downhill in a hurry and was eventually shipped off to Brooklyn.
The centerpiece who came back to Philadelphia in that deal was James Harden, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers by the 76ers on Halloween following a rocky offseason that included the 34-year-old trashing the Sixers during an international press tour in China. An LA native, Harden joins a Clipper team that already boasts Southern California natives Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
Speaking for the first time as a member of an organization that is the oldest franchise in North American professional sports to have never played in a championship game, Harden explained why things didn’t work out between himself and the Sixers. According to the former MVP, he’s “a system” on the basketball court who didn’t have success because he was kept on “a leash.”
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“I think the game. I’m a creator on the court. If I’ve got a voice, someone that trusts me, believes in me, understands me — I’m not a system player, I’m a system,” he told reporters. “If I have someone who can have a dialogue with me, make adjustments on the fly throughout the course of the game, that’s all I really care about. It’s not about having the basketball, or scoring 30, 40 points a night. I’ve done that already.”
What Harden hasn’t done in his career is win a championship, despite playing in 160 postseason games. He’s fifth all-time in that dubious statistic, behind only Karl Malone, John Stockton, Al Horford and Sam Perkins. Will that change now that The System has left The Process behind? He seems to think so.
“I think all of us are on the same page in the sense of the individual stats and all those things are past us and we all got one goal and I think everybody knows what that is,” Harden said. “I’m very elite as an individual and I can fit in with anybody and make a championship run work.”
If you say so.