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James Harden takes $15 million pay cut to stay with Philadelphia 76ers

Andrew Buller-Russ

For all those hating on James Harden, well they just lost some leverage. Harden had the opportunity to opt-in to his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season with the Philadelphia 76ers this offseason. Like many others, Harden opted out, which was expected. But many anticipated a longer extension with even more money to follow, giving the 76ers more stability, not risking their star leaving as a free agent next offseason. And also giving Harden more long-term financial security as he continues to age.

Instead, Harden did the unexpected.

According to Shams Charania, Harden’s agreeing to a $15 million pay cut, signing a two-year deal to stick around in Philly. The second year on the contract is another player option. But what led to Harden agreeing to such a trade?

Why did James Harden take a pay cut?

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There may be several reasons why James Harden surprisingly agreed to a pay cut. The most obvious is his desire to win, which Shams initially cited as well. Despite being a 10-time NBA All-Star, Harden has never won an NBA Championship. Now 32 years old, he may be sensing his window to win closing.

But he’s apparently all-in on Joel Embiid and the Sixers. Harden signing this contract only allows the 76ers to build a stronger roster around him and Embiid, with the hope of making it past the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Since free agency began, general manager Daryl Morey has signed P.J. Tucker and Danuel House to help fill out the depth chart.

Not to mention, Harden taking a pay cut likely comes at the perfect time. Let’s be honest, he took a lot of heat for his playoff performance, where he averaged 18.6 points per game, while shooting just 40.5% from the floor.

He looked like a shell of his former self, displaying none of the consistency that drove him to be a three-time scoring champ. But, maybe the fans in Philly won’t be so harsh on Harden when he steps out on the court next, knowing he sacrificed some of his personal coin to try and make things work with the current core. That has to be admirable on some level.

Related: Philadelphia 76ers still pursuing Eric Gordon despite failed draft night deal: How a trade might look