- “The Beard” did not travel with the Sixers on their opening week road trip north
- Philadelphia defeated Portland in the team’s first home game, winning 126-98
- DailyMail.com provides the latest international sports news
Wantaway 76ers star James Harden beamed as he sat on the bench with his Philly teammates celebrating a 126-98 win over the Trailblazers.
Harden’s absence against Portland was no surprise – the 10-time All-Star has now missed all three games due to his offseason trade request. Officially, the Sixers say Harden needs to improve his conditioning before he can play again.
Harden continued to practice with the Sixers and participated in Sunday’s film session and walkthrough.
“The Beard” wore a yellow hoodie and jeans as he sat on the bench on opening night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. He was sometimes pictured laughing with his close friend and teammate PJ Tucker.
Harden did not accompany the Sixers on their opening week road trip and was ordered to stay behind and practice with the team’s G League players. He had been longing for a move to LA – his preferred destination – to play with the Clippers after communication broke down with Philly president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, whom he called a liar in the offseason.
LOOK WHO’S BACK: James Harden returned to Philly after going missing earlier this month
Harden’s teammates didn’t seem to have any hard feelings toward the 34-year-old on Sunday night
“The report on him is that he had some good conditioning days,” coach Nick Nurse said. “All signs are positive as far as conditioning goes. ‘I just need to experience some live action.’
Nurse said he expects the 34-year-old Harden to practice Tuesday. The 76ers don’t play again at home against the Raptors until Thursday.
The 76ers didn’t reveal their starting lineup until Sunday, so Harden wasn’t there, but he made it into the pregame hype video.
Embiid dropped 35 points against Portland on Sunday, 24 points in an opening loss at Milwaukee and 34 points in a win Saturday night against Toronto.
The 34-year-old Harden returned to 76ers practice last week but still needs to improve to be fit for the game
Joel Embiid (l.) and Harden (r.) led the 76ers to the Eastern Conference finals last season
With three games in four days and the opener at the end of back-to-back games, Embiid was almost out, a stunningly unimaginable prospect for the first home game of the season.
But the NBA tightened its rules on resting healthy players this season. The league is already investigating the official reason for Harden’s absence from the 76ers’ nationally televised season opener – the resumption of competition.
The policy prevents teams from resting multiple star players (defined as anyone who has been on the All-NBA or All-Star selections in the last three seasons) in the same game without approval or resting healthy players in nationally televised games or suspend tournament games during the season.
Nurse said the load management policy makes the decision to play or rest a player like Embiid “a little more difficult.”