MILWAUKEE — The rhetoric coming out of Brooklyn would lead you to believe James Harden was a bad teammate at the end of his tenure.
But the rhetoric coming from the 76ers is the complete opposite. They’ll tell you that Harden has been a welcome addition and positive influence on his teammates.
“He’s been great,” Doc Rivers said of the perennial All-NBA selection.
The Sixers acquired Harden and Paul Millsap from the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks. The move was made to accommodate Harden and Simmons, who both wanted out of their former situations. This came after Harden had already forced a trade from the Houston Rockets to the Nets 14 months earlier.
The way Harden left the Rockets and Nets brought some skepticism about how he would fit in with the Sixers.
Early on, he’s been a leader despite being sidelined while rehabilitating a left hamstring strain. At his suggestion, Harden accompanied the Sixers here to Wisconsin for Thursday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum, the final matchup before the All-Star break. The point guard’s debut could be on Feb. 25 at the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Sixers’ first game after the break.
“He just thought the more time with the guys, the more time on the floor [would be beneficial],” Rivers said of Harden accompanying the team. “I mean yesterday he went hard. Because of that, all the young guys had their hardest practice, going by their pucks. They ran more [Wednesday] than they did the whole year. That’s because they were watching James flying up and down. That’s huge.”
The Sixers are a close-knit group and Harden is fitting in nicely. As part of team bonding, he initiated a card game during Wednesday’s flight.
The future Hall of Famer also has been sharing his expertise with teammates. He attempted to teach Joel Embiid his signature step-back three-pointer following Tuesday’s shootaround. Embiid unsuccessfully attempted it during that night’s loss to the Boston Celtics.
Harden also was seen encouraging and giving pointers to teammates throughout the game.
“All that stuff is good,” Rivers said.
Maxey replaces Mitchell in Clutch Challenge
Tyrese Maxey will replace injured Sacramento Kings rookie guard Davion Mitchell in Friday night’s Clutch Challenge. The Sixers second-year guard will be paired with Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes in the four-team shooting competition.
The teams will attempt to make shots from five locations on the court tied to iconic baskets made by members of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in the postseason. The locations are inspired by Charles Barkley (top of the key), Reggie Miller (right wing three-pointer), Magic Johnson (baby hook shot), Ray Allen (right corner three-pointer) and Damian Lillard (logo three-pointer).