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Thoughts And Prayers For James Harden Who Doesn't Think He Gets Enough Credit For Taking A Pay Cut And "Only" Making $33 Million Dollars This Season

Michael Reaves. Getty Images.

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(The Athletic) - In an interview with The Athletic Monday night, Harden admitted he thinks he hasn’t gotten the proper credit for his first act of selflessness and buy-in to the Sixers — taking what amounted to nearly a $14 million pay cut by declining the $47.4 million player’s option on his contract and signing a new, two-year deal that will pay him $33 million this season.

“Nope, but guess what? I don’t care,” Harden said when asked, shaking his head for emphasis. “There’s like a stereotype (of Harden) where people always want to talk. People don’t really know me, so they feel like they can just say anything. One thing I won’t do is give them any attention. I won’t say anything, media-wise, publicly. I don’t care, because I’m comfortable and I’m confident in the things I do on and off the court.”

Harden, speaking inside the visitor’s locker room in Cleveland after a preseason win over the Cavaliers, said his new contract — which he can opt out of next summer in search of a bigger payday from the Sixers, or another club — was “the right decision not only for myself, but our organization, giving us a really good chance of putting the right pieces together.”

“You do things, handle business on the court and off the court, and the money will always come back,” Harden said. “So, I’m fortunate and blessed to be in the position I am, and I’ll just continue to be me.”

Let me begin this blog by stating something I've talked about for years on the blog. I'm a James Harden guy. It dates back to our time at ASU together all the way back in 2007 when he just had the pencil beard. Even now that he's on the Sixers, I'm still a Harden guy even if I want his team to lose every game they play. 

But even as a James Harden guy, I can't help but laugh at this. It immediately made me think back to that fantastic Curb scene about the Anonymous (Ted) donor

For those who may not remember, James Harden turned down his $47.4M player option for this season to sign a 2/68.6M extension that pays him $33M this year and has a player option for $35M next year (his age 34 season). So yes, while he did take a pretty big paycut, it's not like he's making chump change. Even by NBA standards, $33M is still a shit ton of money. It's the 30th highest salary in the league next year and if that seems low, the only other players Harden's age or older that make more than him are 

Steph Curry

Russell Westbrook

LeBron James

Kevin Durant

Jimmy Butler

Outside of Westbrook, who only makes that much because it's the final year of his deal, I wouldn't say that's all that crazy. Plus let's face it, while he's not totally washed by any means, Harden is no longer a $47M player. Had he turned down his player option and went to the market, it's not like someone was about to offer him the max or anything crazy like that. His paycut made sense since it helped the Sixers fill out their roster, and he still has the flexibility to sign a bigger deal next summer if he has a great year this year and his value goes back up.

My question is, what is the proper credit Harden is looking for? Did he want a parade? Did he want the city to make him a fake award like they did for Joel Embiid's MVP? A key to the city? I have to say, I don't think I've seen too many people be upset that people didn't bow down and kiss their feet because they were forced to make $33M dollars. To then say you don't care while then also having an entire article written about how much you don't care…..clearly shows you care. While I wasn't present in those contract negotiations, I'm going to assume the Sixers weren't trying to get Harden to take $40M+ a year and he downright refused because he wanted to be selfless and help the team. If they offered him a max, he would have taken the max. 

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I also wouldn't exactly say Harden had a ton of leverage with the Sixers this summer in his contract negotiations either, mostly because there was no team in the market that was going to max him. Plenty of Hall Of Fame NBA players took pay cuts as they aged and started to decline in order to help their team. It's not new. I also wouldn't call it "selflessness" if you expect people to give you credit for it. That seems like the opposite of what selflessness is. 

At the end of the day though, none of this truly matters. What matters is what the Sixers actually do on the court, especially in the postseason. Harden taking a pay cut isn't going to mean shit if he doesn't show up in the playoffs. The Sixers are yet to get out of the 2nd round even once in the entire Joel Embiid era and it hasn't mattered what version of the Process there's been. Maybe let's start there as opposed to being concerned that the world didn't give you "enough" credit for signing a market level deal.