The Philadelphia 76ers acquired James Harden last season with visions of him being the perfect compliment to Joel Embiid. Fans begun running amok with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant comparisons. It was a whole thing.
Unfortunately, Harden and Embiid never even came close to scratching the surface of the lofty goals set for them. Philly struggled in the playoffs and was unceremoniously booted early.
A big reason why was Harden’s lackluster play, which most attributed at least partially to his poor conditioning.
This summer, Harden decided to rectify what ailed him in 2021-22. In a series of new photos, the Sixers star looks absolutely jacked:
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This isn’t the first time Harden’s appearance has surprised folks this offseason. Earlier photos of him showed him looking tremendously skinny; now he appears to be bulking up.
It will be interesting to see what bearing that will ultimately have on his game next year.
Harden has been quite open this summer about not only Philly’s struggles last season, but also some of the issues that lingered in his relationship with Embiid.
He doesn’t seem to be under any Russell Westbrook-like delusions about where things went wrong in 2021-22 and his role in them.
That acceptance is an important first step. It doesn’t guarantee a better result next season, but an acknowledgement of problems and general desire to fix them is always better than the alternative.
Harden seems to be partying less this offseason, too. Which is a welcome sight. Yes, he was spotted out doing it up with Rachel Nichols – but that appears to be the exception, not the rule.
The Cardinals are looking very promising this year. https://t.co/088ffQERgX
— Game 7 (@game7__) August 20, 2022
These days he seems content enough just chilling with his girlfriend and preparing for what’s to come in 2022-23. That’s the right mentality to have.
Will Harden’s reformed work ethic and dedication to getting in shape this summer pay dividends for him next year?
Time will tell.
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