James Harden chose the Nets over the 76ers when traded from the Rockets. He said in October he loved playing for Brooklyn and had no plans to leave. Even as the trade deadline approached, Harden continued to tell the Nets he was committed to them.
Harden now plays for Philadelphia.
So, a report Harden exercised his player option in conjunction with yesterday’s trade seemed significant. Harden opting in would protect the 76ers, who surrendered significant assets to acquire him (and set up Harden to maximize his salary).
Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice:
source familiar with the situation tells @thephillyvoice James Harden did not opt into the next year of his deal yesterday, as was reported elsewhere.
Sixers and Harden are both confident and feeling good about where they stand long term, but an important detail nonetheless
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) February 11, 2022
Harden can still opt in any time by June 30. His player-option salary ($47,366,760) is slightly higher than his max salary as a free agent ($46,526,382). Likewise, his income over the next five years through an opt-in and max extension that could be signed Aug. 10 ($270,179,999) would be slightly higher than a max deal in free agency ($269,853,016), though a new contract could contain a signing bonus and get Harden more money sooner.
This path even opens the possibility of Harden taking a discount (though I wouldn’t bet on it).
But the variance could swing the other way, as Harden has the ability to leave in unrestricted free agency this summer. That’s at least a little disconcerting with a player who’s not always clear in his intentions.