Sixers’ Daryl Morey discusses James Harden’s well being, PJ Tucker’s contract

The 10-year anniversary of Daryl Morey’s first commerce for James Harden is sort of right here.

The two have gotten to know one another properly during the last decade, and but the Sixers’ president of basketball operations didn’t count on Harden’s press convention following a season-ending loss to the Heat in May to play out precisely because it did.

When requested whether or not he was ever 100% wholesome with the Sixers, Harden stated, “I used to be getting there, man. Honestly, it has been a protracted two years for me. I’m lastly beginning to form of really feel OK once more. It’ll be an awesome summer time for me to get my physique proper and be able to go for subsequent 12 months. These final two years have been a whirlwind, although.”

After being dealt to the Sixers in February, Harden initially centered on rehabbing his injured left hamstring. He then debuted on Feb. 25 and performed 21 of a doable 24 regular-season video games, averaging 37.7 minutes. He appeared in every of the crew’s 12 postseason contests, going a hair below 40 minutes per recreation.

“I’ll say with James — once more, greater than any participant I’ve labored with — he by no means says one thing’s incorrect,” Morey stated on The Takeoff with John Clark podcast. “It really stunned me when he stated what he stated after the season. For him to say meaning there have been extra points than he … look, he is spit on it, get on the ground, no matter value you are able to do, go on the market and win. He’s been one of the vital sturdy guys in NBA historical past previous to the hamstring difficulty. I do know he is labored onerous to get it to an awesome place; it is in an awesome place proper now.

“But throughout our run final 12 months, he is by no means going to say, ‘I’m not 100%,’ as a result of he would not ever wish to give any excuses, particularly throughout the center of a playoff run. And he is additionally by no means going to wish to point out to his teammates or the opposite crew that there is a difficulty.

“Frankly, all through my profession, we have tried to get James to be extra open about, ‘Hey, that is hurting’ or no matter, simply to guard him. For instance, in my years with him (in Houston), he would flip ankles that will ship guys out for weeks and simply play straight away, after which play the following evening of a back-to-back. It was spectacular. Maybe a little bit extra courageous than we wanted at instances, however you respect that that is his mindset.”

In Morey’s interview with Clark, he additionally praised Harden for his recruitment of latest signing Montrezl Harrell. And he emphasised the significance of Harden’s resolution to ink a two-year, $68.6 million contract this summer time. The 33-year-old declined his $47.4 million participant possibility.

“James, he is a little bit later in his profession than Joel (Embiid), so I might say as you get farther alongside you notice annually is treasured, every season is much more treasured. He’s carried out extra, I feel, than possibly any star participant’s ever carried out to take that a lot much less cash. We simply bought Montrezl Harrell. We could not have carried out that with out each him taking much less cash and always speaking to Trez and saying, ‘Hey, let’s rekindle the magic we had prior to now.’

“Look, between the cash he gave up and his dedication to the franchise from Day 1 to do what (head coach Doc Rivers) desires… I’m somebody who appears to be like at information fairly a bit. All the gamers on the crew’s taking pictures percentages went method up off passes from him. Our crew general was elevated after he got here. Joel and James have been the No. 1 pick-and-roll combo — actually (in) years; it wasn’t simply final season. It simply exhibits the general influence and the way he is lifting the entire crew to assist us win a title.”

The gist of Morey’s level about Harden’s influence is certainly backed by the numbers. One robust instance is Tyrese Maxey, who shot 61.1 % on two-pointers and 55.6 % on threes off of passes from Harden and loved discovering the various advantages of the 10-time All-Star’s level guard expertise.

With Harden-Embiid lineups, the Sixers sported a plus-15.8 internet ranking (99th percentile), per Cleaning the Glass.

It could be affordable to view Morey’s offseason work and assume he listened very intently to what his stars desired. However, Morey described Harden’s reunions with former Rockets Harrell, PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr. as extra nuanced than merely catering to his greatest gamers.

“… Look, we have added lots of people who’ve labored each with Doc and myself prior to now,” Morey stated. “Trez, everybody likes to make enjoyable of the truth that now we have plenty of former Rockets, however Trez had his greatest years below Doc — Sixth Man of the Year (in 2019-20) — and he actually flourished after that Chris Paul commerce that introduced him to the Clippers and dealing with (assistant coach) Sam Cassell. … It’s by no means like a one-to-one factor. It’s actually like, this is the array of alternatives. I attempt to go in and not using a particular factor like, ‘We must have X.’ And the truth is, the Montrezl Harrell signing was one we did not suppose would possibly occur. So we have been comfy getting into with what we had. We thought that if there was a difficulty, we might handle it throughout the season. … I might guess it’d come extra in February or so. So you take a look at all of the alternatives.

“I’ve discussions with our entrance workplace, with Coach Rivers, with possession, and sure, additionally with our prime gamers. When the highest gamers are concerned and see the vary of choices, after which see why we’re making the choices we make, they really feel extra invested; they really feel extra part of the whole lot. It’s only a good approach to get everybody within the boat collectively. And so once they see all these choices, yeah, there could be, like, ‘Hey, I might use a pick-and-roll companion. Montrezl Harrell might try this.’ Or we checked out different gamers who have been higher at possibly spacing the ground. ‘OK, if I haven’t got a pick-and-roll companion, I might use a spacer who would possibly open up lanes for me.’ So it is extra that than particular gamers.

“It simply so occurs that clearly now we have James now. There are sure gamers who work properly with James, so it is pure to possibly search for that match. Similar to Joel. Just completed taking part in a collection (in opposition to) PJ Tucker. PJ was in a position to actually influence that collection in plenty of methods together with his toughness, together with his high-level protection, together with his power on the ground, together with his offensive rebounding. And Joel appropriately stated, ‘Hey, we might use a man like that.’

“But at no level did Joel Embiid say, ‘We must have PJ Tucker.’ He occurred to be obtainable. If he hadn’t been a free agent, then we might have needed to transfer in a distinct route. It would possibly’ve been a totally totally different route from a PJ Tucker; it would’ve been a distinct profile. Again, I feel if you happen to go in like, ‘We must get X,’ that is the place you overpay. That’s the place you create constraints to your means to enhance the crew later.”

“Overpay” would possibly wind up being a preferred label for Tucker’s contract if the 37-year-old drops off bodily or has poor damage luck in Philadelphia.

The Sixers used the usual mid-level exception on Tucker, signing him to a three-year, $33.2 million contract. In Morey’s eyes, the current proof that Tucker can nonetheless be extremely invaluable for contending groups mattered greater than guessing how Tucker will age.

“PJ Tucker, if you happen to take a look at gamers much like him, (he) ought to’ve been out of the league 4 years in the past,” Morey stated. “Almost nobody who performs the kind of recreation he performs continues to be taking part in at 37. So we’re already on this house of no one is aware of. We’re clearly making an attempt to win now. I’m not as fearful about 40. I feel I might by no means guess in opposition to PJ Tucker. Anyone who’s ever guess in opposition to him has been incorrect, and he retains profitable. So I do not know what he will be at 40. PJ, he is aware of he will be nice at 40; I do know he believes it. I feel everybody else would not know, however we really feel good.

“Even if possibly his physique betrays him a little bit bit going ahead, I nonetheless know he will convey power and he will be an unbelievable man to have on a roster. All of that stated, he is already on this place the place no one is aware of the following steps. Normally, you possibly can take a look at gamers who play like him at 32, how will they take a look at 34? You can take a look at these issues. There’s 100, 200 gamers like that. There’s actually an information set of 1 one who appears to be like like PJ Tucker that is nonetheless serving to groups win championships at age 36, 37. Almost all of them are these former multi-time All-Stars — to make it to that age. And frankly, PJ Tucker is an All-Star at his position. Maybe in 50 years guys like him are All-Stars as a result of folks acknowledge the contribution they make.”

Whether he rises to an All-Star stage this season or not, a participant 16 years youthful than Tucker is clearly integral for the Sixers.

Morey acknowledged that the Sixers are banking on the 21-year-old Maxey persevering with to develop quickly.

“He’s key to our season,” Morey stated. “Obviously the brand new gamers on the crew I feel are two-way gamers and are going to set the stage, however profitable the title actually comes all the way down to your greatest gamers. And most likely the important thing issues are we want Joel to but once more give us an MVP-level efficiency; we want James to be simply himself — we do not even want 5 years in the past James, we want the man we noticed final 12 months for many of the video games; however the largest inflection level might be we want Maxey to take one other step ahead.

“And he can do it. He’s placing the work in. Look, it is actually onerous. His rookie 12 months was method forward of schedule. His second 12 months was method, method forward of schedule. And to ask him to do one other leap ahead is asking so much, however we do want it. But I would not be stunned if he does it given how a lot time he places in.”

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