NBA Rumors: The 76ers make a last-ditch attempt to keep James Harden

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers=(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers=(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

After yet another playoff collapse, the Philadelphia 76ers’ decision to fire Doc Rivers seemed inevitable. However, letting him go went well beyond the Sixers’ Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, star James Harden, who can become a free agent this summer, wasn’t a fan of Rivers.

"“From what I’m told, one person said to me it would be hard for me to see James [Harden] wanting to come back to play for Doc again,” Shelburne said."

Based on that, the Sixers cutting ties with Rivers could be their way of trying to retain Harden in free agency. Unfortunately, the Sixers face tough competition to keep Harden, namely from the Houston Rockets as well as the Phoenix Suns. In fact, the Rockets are apparently confident that they will be able to steal him away from the Sixers.

Of course, the Sixers would prefer to keep Harden, especially given their roster constraints. After losing to the Celtics in Game 7, losing Harden would be another devastating blow and would leave Philadelphia with MVP Joel Embiid and a mostly lackluster roster. Guard Tyrese Maxey could command big money in restricted free agency, and while he made strides this season, he isn’t Harden.

Moreover, the Sixers will have to be very careful not to overpay to keep him, given his limitations. They also have Tobias Harris and his massive expiring contract, which they could use along with a future first-round pick to try and add around Embiid. Even then, Embiid simply isn’t good enough to drag Maxey and a bunch of role players to the NBA Finals. At least with Harden, they would have a chance.

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Ultimately, the Sixers are set to enter a crucial offseason in which they could either get slightly better or significantly worse. Harden leaving could force the 76ers to take several steps back in order to move forward, but their decision to fire Rivers shows that they are doing everything in their power to convince him to stay.