NBA rumors: 76ers core willing to mend fences with James Harden

James Harden continues to force his way out the door, but the Philadelphia 76ers' core would gladly welcome him back.
James Harden, Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden, Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers' elusive pursuit of a normal offseason will have to wait another year. James Harden, rather than negotiate a long-term extension or seek employment elsewhere as a free agent, opted into the final year of his contract worth $35.6 million and requested a trade.

In the months following Harden's request, the Sixers listened to offers from the half-interested Los Angeles Clippers before deciding to shut down talks and bring Harden into training camp. Odds are Harden won't show up in good spirits, if he shows up at all. Harden called Sixers president Daryl Morey a liar at a media event in China and has since taken to Instagram to disparage ESPN's recent tell-all report about his tumultuous summer.

Harden is actively trying to blow up his situation in Philly. His goal is to make it as uncomfortable as possible without completely tanking his value to prospective suitors and potential next-contract bidders.

While the drama has only just begun, the Sixers don't have to worry about Joel Embiid or Tyrese Maxey for the time being. Harden's co-stars are being team players, and both are more than happy to welcome Harden back into the fold should he change his mind.

Philadelphia 76ers' stars would welcome James Harden back

"Thus far, Embiid has given the franchise assurances he is OK riding out the current drama with Harden," writes ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "Maxey has done the same."

That's huge for the Sixers. Embiid is the foundation upon which this entire era of Sixers basketball is haphazardly built. The reigning MVP caused quite a stir earlier in the summer when he spoke about potentially winning a championship elsewhere. He also removed Philadelphia, PA from his Twitter bio in what is probably a classic Embiid troll, but it certainly felt dire in the moment.

The Sixers also passed over the opportunity to extend Tyrese Maxey in an effort to preserve cap flexibility. Maxey is okay with the decision, per ESPN, which is a commendable sacrifice on his part. The Sixers are on the fast track to no-man's land if Maxey doesn't quickly emerge as a legitimate second fiddle, but despite his importance to the franchise, Maxey has been completely selfless.

Maxey maintains an open mind when it comes to Harden.

"I love James," he said on the 'Maxey on the Mic' podcast. "If James decided he’s going to come back and play for us, there’s nobody in this organization that would be upset about that."

Embiid appears to be on the same page. Per Shelburne, Embiid has continued to communicate with Harden over the summer and he even invited the beleaguered All-Star to his wedding. The Sixers' 7-footer went on the record in July, stating that he "[wants] him to come back."

There's no love lost between Harden and his Sixers co-stars. This appears to be a business decision driven by what Harden perceives as disrespect from Daryl Morey, his longtime friend and advocate dating back to their shared Houston primes.

If Harden continues to sulk about and express a strong desire to leave, it's only a matter of time until it happens. He's in the last year of his contract — the Sixers' hands are tied. On the other hand, Harden can't afford a lost season if he wants to get another big payday. The lack of trade interest has to be a troubling sign for his camp.

This messy situation will probably get messier before it gets cleaner, but it's clear Harden's teammates will welcome him back if the time ever comes.

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