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 nearly 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 anticipate 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 one hundred pc wholesome with the Sixers, Harden mentioned, “I used to be getting there, man. Honestly, it has been a protracted two years for me. I’m lastly beginning to really feel OK once more. It’ll be an incredible summer season 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 traded to the Sixers in February, Harden initially targeted on rehabbing his injured left hamstring. He then debuted on Feb. 25 and performed 21 of a potential 24 regular-season video games, averaging 37.7 minutes. He appeared in every of the group’s 12 postseason contests, going a hair underneath 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 mentioned on The Takeoff with John Clark podcast. “It truly stunned me when he mentioned what he mentioned after the season. For him to say which means there have been extra points than he … look, he is spit on it, get on the ground, no matter price you are able to do, go on the market and win. He’s been probably the most sturdy guys in NBA historical past earlier than the hamstring problem. I do know he is labored exhausting to get it to an incredible place; it is in an incredible place proper now.

“But throughout our run final 12 months, he is by no means going to say, ‘I’m not one hundred pc,’ as a result of he does not ever need to give any excuses, particularly in the course of the center of a playoff run. And he is additionally by no means going to need to point out to his teammates or the opposite group that there is a problem.

“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 might ship guys out for weeks and simply play immediately, after which play the subsequent evening of a back-to-back. It was spectacular. Maybe somewhat extra courageous than we would have liked at instances, however you respect that that is his mindset.”

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

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

“Look, between the cash he gave up and his dedication to the franchise from Day 1 to do what (head coach Doc Rivers) needs… I’m somebody who seems to be at information fairly a bit. All the gamers on the group’s taking pictures percentages went approach up off passes from him. Our group total was elevated after he arrived. 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 impression and the way he is lifting the entire group to assist us win a title.”

The gist of Morey’s level about Harden’s impression is certainly backed by the numbers. One sturdy 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 cheap to see 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 Daniel 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 previously,” Morey mentioned. “Trez, everybody likes to make enjoyable of the truth that we have now a variety of former Rockets, however Trez had his greatest years underneath 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 with no particular factor like, ‘We should have X.’ And in actual fact, the Montrezl Harrell signing was one we did not assume would possibly occur. So we have been comfy moving into with what we had. We thought that if there was a problem, we may deal with it in the course of the season. … I’d 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 selections we make, they really feel extra invested; they really feel extra part of all the things. It’s only a sensible solution to get everybody within the boat collectively. And so once they see all these choices, yeah, there is perhaps, like, ‘Hey, I may use a pick-and-roll associate. Montrezl Harrell may do 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 associate, I may 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 we have now 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 sequence (towards) PJ Tucker. PJ was in a position to actually impression that sequence in a variety 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 accurately mentioned, ‘Hey, we may use a man like that.’

“But at no level did Joel Embiid say, ‘We should have PJ Tucker.’ He occurred to be out there. If he hadn’t been a free agent, then we might have needed to transfer in a unique route. It would possibly’ve been a totally totally different route from a PJ Tucker; it’d’ve been a unique profile. Again, I feel should you go in like, ‘We should get X,’ that is the place you overpay. That’s the place you create constraints to your potential to enhance the group 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 harm 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, should you take a look at gamers just like him, (he) ought to have been out of the league 4 years in the past,” Morey mentioned. “Almost nobody who performs the kind of recreation he performs remains to be taking part in at 37. So we’re already on this area of no one is aware of. We’re clearly attempting to win now. I’m not as apprehensive about 40. I feel I’d by no means wager towards PJ Tucker. Anyone who’s ever wager towards him has been incorrect, and he retains successful. 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 does not know, however we really feel good.

“Even if possibly his physique betrays him somewhat bit going ahead, I nonetheless know he will deliver power and he will be an unbelievable man to have on a roster. All that mentioned, he is already on this place the place no one is aware of the subsequent steps. Normally, you’ll be able to 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 are 100, 200 gamers like that. There’s actually a knowledge set of 1 one who seems to be 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 in his position. Maybe in 50 years guys like him are All-Stars as a result of individuals 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 mentioned. “Obviously the brand new gamers on the group I feel are two-way gamers and are going to set the stage, however successful the title actually comes right down to your greatest gamers. And most likely the important thing issues are we’d like Joel to but once more give us an MVP-level efficiency; we’d like James to be simply himself — we do not even want James 5 years in the past, we’d like the man we noticed final 12 months for a lot of the video games; however the greatest inflection level might be we’d like Maxey to take one other step ahead.

“And he can do it. He’s placing the work in. Look, it is actually exhausting. His rookie 12 months was approach forward of schedule. His second 12 months was approach, approach forward of schedule. And to ask him to do one other leap ahead is asking loads, 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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