Daryl Morey says James Harden’s hamstrings are ‘in a great place,’ 76ers ‘don’t even need James from five years ago’

James Harden was not fully recovered last season, straining his hamstring – and then playing on it – in the 2021 playoffs. After Philadelphia 76ers‘ loss at the end of the season against Miami Heat in May, They said He was “finally starting to feel fine again,” but it was frustrating “trying to be right for two years straight during basketball season.”

Harden’s comments at that postgame press conference surprised Sixers president Daryl Morey Said in an interview on NBC Sports’ “Takeoff with John Clark” podcast, Morey didn’t expect Harden to be so honest about it.

“He never says anything more wrong than any player I’ve worked with,” More said. “It really surprised me when he said what he said season after season. It meant more issues to him than that — look, he’s, you know, ‘spit on him, get on the floor, whatever. Also win cost what you can, go out there and win.’ He’s been one of the most durable guys in NBA history before the hamstring problem. I know he’s worked hard to get it to a great place. It’s in a good place right now.”

in 65 regular-season games divided between Brooklyn Nets And the Sixers, Harden averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds, with a 26.6 percent utilization rate and an actual shooting percentage of 58.3 percent. His first few games in Philadelphia were spectacular, but he was inconsistent as a scorer, shooting just 40.2 percent off the field in 21 regular-season games. The playoffs were similarly confusing; Harden saved the Sixers’ season with a series of clutch plays in Game 4 of the second round against Miami, then appeared useless in the next two games. It remains up for debate whether the 33-year-old was getting used to his new environment, still struggling with hamstring tightness, or simply declining with age.

“He’s never going to say, ‘I’m not 100 percent,'” Morey said. “Because he never wants to give excuses, especially in the middle of a playoff race. And he never wants to signal to his teammates or the other team that there’s a problem. So clearly, throughout my career, we’ve had James Have tried to be more open about, you know, ‘hey, it’s hurting,’ whatever, just to protect her. But frankly, for example, in my years with her , he would twist ankles that would send people out for weeks and just play immediately. And then play back-to-back the next night. It was impressive. Maybe sometimes a little more brave than we needed Yes, but you respect her that she has the mindset.”

Harden was certainly the bravest when he returned to play games 5 to 7 of the second round of the Nets series. box in 2021. He was transparent even after that series ended, telling reporters that he had played on a grade 2 hamstring strain and was “literally going out on a limb.” Before that tension, there were moments in the series opener, having missed more than a month late in the regular season due to issues with his hamstrings.

Asked if Harden has learned he has to do more in the off-season at this stage of his career to stay in better physical shape, More said: “I would say no more. I would just say different. I think the way you dressed in your early 30s is different from the way you dressed in your 20s. And I love how our performance staff worked with them.” A custom plan for this season to strengthen the muscles around the hamstrings to make sure it’s in a good spot, but also to work all the other areas that need it. But you probably didn’t have to work in your 20s, but you do in your 30s.”

Morey’s front office traded Harden for one with its eyes on a championship, and he reiterated on the podcast that he believes Harden gives Philadelphia a better chance of doing so right now. Morey praised Harden for committing to the franchise, sacrificing money in free agency and raising his teammates, alluding to the Sixers shooting percentage on passes from Harden and the fact that Harden and Joel Embiid league. The most efficient pick-and-roll tandem of the . Morey, speaking of the entire team, also admitted that “the last two games felt strange to me – I’ll just speak for myself: it felt like a different team and I think we all have to live with it. Learn from it and be better.”

When it came to Harden in particular, Morey didn’t exactly say that Philadelphia needed to get better in the playoffs. He said it needed Harden to be more Continuously,

“I would probably say that Toronto and Miami were three stellar games in the series, that you could say we win games because of them,” Morey said. “There were a lot of games where he was very good and we won the game. There were a lot of games where he and others were a big contributor to why we didn’t win the game. So I think it’s really just that consistency. And getting to the place where 70 percent of the plays in games in the playoffs is what helps us win 90 percent. And I thought we just had a few nights in the playoffs where we didn’t make it.”

Morey said that Philadelphia additions – PJ Tucker, D’Anthony Melton, Danielle House and Montreuel Harrell – will “set the stage” next season, but “winning the title really comes down to your best players.” He said the Sixers needed Embiid for another MVP-caliber season, Tyrese Maxi to take another step forward and Harden to simply “be himself.”

“We don’t even need James five years ago,” Morey said. “We need the guy we saw last year for most of the games.”

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