Harden keeps real the possibility of negotiating a new deal that would deliver the Sixers roster-building flexibility in free agency — including use of the full $10.5 million exception.
In Harden’s conversations with the team since the end of the season, he has shared extensively his desire to help the organization reshape the roster toward championship contention, sources told ESPN.
The opt-out could go a long way in reshaping the Sixers’ bench, including that full midlevel exception, the $4.1 million biennial exception and sign-and-trade deals.
Teams may begin negotiating deals with free agents starting at 6 p.m. ET Thursday. However, those players cannot officially sign until 12:01 p.m. ET on July 6.
Harden, 32, averaged 22.0 points and 10.3 assists across 65 games with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia this past season, after being sent from Brooklyn to Philadelphia as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ben Simmons in the other direction.
His arrival, however, didn’t change things for Philadelphia in the playoffs, as the 76ers lost in the second round for the fourth time in five years and failed yet again to reach at least the Eastern Conference finals.
Harden spent only a year in Brooklyn, after his wildly successful eight-year run in Houston ended right at the start of the 2020-21 campaign, when he was sent to the Nets for a haul of future draft assets to pair with both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Instead, the playoff run in the trio’s first season — the disappointing nature of which could easily be blamed on a sprained ankle for Irving and a hamstring injury Harden battled through — ended in a second-round loss to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Then, last season, Harden’s relationship with the Nets deteriorated in the wake of Irving’s inability to play due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Harden was eventually shipped to Philadelphia, where he was reunited with his president of basketball operations in Houston, Daryl Morey.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.