MINNEAPOLIS — For James Harden and the 76ers, the wait is almost over.

The franchise has a habit of being extra cautious when it comes to injuries. That led to a star player being traded and having to wait 15 days to compete with his new team.

Harden was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets along with Paul Millsap for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round draft picks on Feb. 10. The perennial All-NBA player will make his debut at 8 p.m. Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. The Sixers released their injury report at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and Harden wasn’t on it for the first time since being acquired in the trade. It’s been a long-waited debut.

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Doc Rivers is unsure of the level of anticipation for Friday’s debut.

“It’s funny, tomorrow I’m not that excited,” Rivers said following Thursday’s practice at the University of Minnesota. “I’m excited that we can get it started. But I know we will be far better in a week than we are this week, and far better in two weeks than we are now.

“But it was good to get some stuff on the floor, some live stuff. ... I thought what stood out today was his passing ability. We know he can score. We know he’s going to get downhill, but guys got the ball a lot more than they thought. And they were wide open. That’s pretty good.”

In Harden, the Sixers have a consistent second scorer and a closer, which they need. Even though he’s not a true point guard, the future Hall of Famer is solid at that position. The 32-year-old is second in the league in assists at 10.2 per game while averaging 22.5 points.

Harden has been sidelined since he scored four points on 2-for-11 shooting in Brooklyn’s road loss to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 2. Since then, the guard missed a combined eight games (the last four with the Sixers) with a left hamstring strain. The severity of the injury was questioned in New York. It was seen as a way to avoid playing while forcing a trade to the Sixers. However, Harden and the Sixers agreed for him to be held out of games until following the All-Star break, which concludes Friday for the Sixers.

The Sixers (35-23) went 3-1 in the games Harden missed. They defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 100-87, the day after the trade. Then the Sixers won the second game of a back-to-back in a 103-93 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 12. Three days later, they suffered one of their worst losses in franchise history, a 135-87 drubbing by the Boston Celtics. But the Sixers bounced back to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 123-120, on the road on Feb. 17 in the final game before the All-Star break.

Now, the Sixers have 24 games to get their prized acquisition acclimated to playing with his teammates, especially MVP front-runner Joel Embiid.

On paper, Embiid and Harden are one of the league’s elite duos. Harden was MVP in 2018 and is a three-time scoring champion. The point guard is also a 10-time All-Star and a member of the NBA 75th anniversary team. Meanwhile, he is a transcendent center who is a five-time All-Star starter.

Sixers sign Cauley-Stein

The Sixers made it official, signing Willie Cauley-Stein to a 10-day contract on Thursday.

The 7-foot, 240-pounder will serve as Embiid’s backup center. He played for the Dallas Mavericks this season before being waived on Jan. 15. He averaged 1.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 9.8 minutes in 18 appearances with two starts. Cauley-Stein last played on Nov. 27.

The Sixers are Cauley-Stein’s fourth team since he was drafted sixth overall out of Kentucky by the Sacramento Kings in 2015.