After showing some spark despite their many issues and tying the Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece, the Philadelphia 76ers came out as soft as baby parrot feathers and dropped the last two contests of the series to the Miami Heat.
Neither contest was even close, as Philly lost Game 5 by 35 points and trailed by as many as 20 points in Game 6 on Thursday.
For the past few years, plenty of people have picked the Sixers to reach the NBA Finals or at least have a real shot at doing so, as they can boast one of the best rosters in pro basketball.
Instead, they haven’t even gotten as far as the Eastern Conference Finals.
It is time for the franchise to make the type of tough decisions that can ultimately get a good team over the hump and into the territory of true championship contention.
It is time for the Sixers to get rid of James Harden, one way or another.
Harden Is Not Who He Used To Be
Just a few years ago, Harden was one of the most prolific players in NBA history when he was a member of the Houston Rockets.
He led the league in scoring three years in a row while putting up plenty of assists, and he was the darling of advanced stat geeks across the land.
Harden won the 2018 regular season MVP, leading the Rockets to a league-best 65-17 record and getting them to the brink of the championship series.
Even last season, despite showing up to training camp fat and out of shape, he managed to average a strong and efficient 24.6 points and 10.8 assists per game for the Rockets and Brooklyn Nets.
This year, the Nets shipped him to the Sixers, but whether he was in the New York City metro area or the Delaware Valley, he couldn’t find his shooting eye.
He ended the regular season shooting just 41.0 percent overall and 33.0 percent from 3-point range, and his overall accuracy did not improve in the playoffs.
In Philly’s series loss to Miami, Harden only played well in Game 4, when he got hot in crunch time and helped lead his team to an eight-point win with 31 points and nine assists.
If washed and out of shape James harden is giving the 76ers 30 pt playoff games they won the ben Simmons trade lmao pic.twitter.com/ygP44YUABz
— jw (@the__johnw) May 9, 2022
That’s the Harden the Sixers have needed, especially with Joel Embiid at less than 100 percent both health-wise and performance-wise, but they haven’t gotten that Harden most of the time.
At this point, it may be reasonable to expect that iteration of Harden to be long gone.
He Doesn’t Get It Done When The Chips Are Down
Even if The Beard returns to form next season, there is also the problem of how poorly he tends to play in elimination games.
When the 2018 Rockets needed him to play his best in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals with Chris Paul injured, he shot 12-of-29 and 2-of-13 from downtown in the biggest game of his life as Houston lost by nine points.
Last season, he put up a 5-of-17 clunker in Game 7 of the second round versus the Milwaukee Bucks.
Granted, Harden was playing on a bad hamstring in that contest, and while he should be commended for playing through pain, he should also be criticized for playing so poorly.
On Thursday, he took just nine shots in 43 minutes.
James Harden under the playoffs lights every single year
— Bobby, No Valentino (@JBeans_15) May 13, 2022
He has a player option for next season, and even if he opts in, the Sixers should trade him and get what they can for him.
It’s time for them to build around Embiid and upstart star Tyrese Maxey and rid themselves of the dead weight that is named James Harden.