Philadelphia’s mid-season move for former MVP James Harden has come crashing down after the Sixers were eliminated from the NBA playoffs series.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler scored 32 points and waved “bye-bye” to the Philly crowd as he sent Miami into the Eastern Conference finals with a 99-90 victory over Philadelphia in game six.
All eyes have turned to the 32-year-old Harden, the 2018 MVP that Philadelphia shipped out Australian and three-time All-Star Ben Simmons for, in a package to acquire the shooting guard from Brooklyn.
In what’s been viewed as the biggest trade of the season, the 76ers acquired Harden, while the Nets received Simmons, three-point specialist Seth Curry, centre Andre Drummond and multiple first-round picks.
Harden had a nightmare showing in the playoffs series with Miami, shooting just 40 per cent from the field, while averaging 18 points per game – well below his average of 25.
He attempted just two shots during the second half as the Heat mounted its onslaught.
It was a performance that left many of the NBA’s biggest names reacting on broadcast and social media, including ESPN icon Stephen A. Smith, who said the performance required an investigation.
“It was a deplorable performance from the 76ers,” Smith said on ESPN.
“That performance from James Harden requires an investigation, how do you play 22 minutes in the second half and attempt one shot? That was an anaemic and impotent performance from James Harden.”
Several big names in the NBA media were quick to point out the effort the Sixers put in to land Harden, which now looks to be a disaster.
The biggest questions for the Sixers will be what the organisation and Harden do moving forward.
Harden has a $68 million player option that he must pick up before July 1, and given it’s such a large sum of money, it’s hard to imagine he turns that down.
The main reason why Harden could pick that contract up is that allows him to make the most amount of money.
If Harden is thinking money first in his next career decision, picking up the contract option will allow him to then exercise that contract for a further four years, making for a five-year super-max deal worth $399 million.
That deal would mean Harden in the final year at age 37 will be earning just over $80 million.
Harden’s trade to the 76ers was brought to life by Sixers’ president Daryl Morey, who was the executive in charge during the 10-time All Star’s nine-year stint with Houston.
The pair are known to be very close, which is where negotiations will be interesting as to whether the Sixers give the man they traded so much for, the cash he’s likely to ask for.
Meanwhile, the Heat will play the winner of the Milwaukee-Boston series. The defending champion Bucks lead that series 3-2, with game six on Saturday in Milwaukee.
The Heat reached the conference finals for the second time in three seasons, again with Butler leading the charge. Philly fans — and many inside the 76ers organization — still can’t believe the franchise let Butler get away after the 2019 season. He did not mess around and scored 14 points on six-of-nine shooting in the third quarter when the Heat used a 16-2 run to take control. Butler scored 33 points in game three and 40 in game four and took 29 shots in game six.
“I think he’s one of the ultimate competitors in this profession,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was brilliant all series long. The challenges only get tougher here. He saw there was an opportunity to end this tonight and he wasn’t going to let this get to seven.”
– with AP