New York—James Harden said Tuesday he is relishing the prospect of getting down to work with his Philadelphia Sixers teammates, revealing that the franchise had been his preferred destination all along.
Harden joined the Sixers from the Brooklyn Nets last week in a blockbuster trade that caps a roller-coaster 13 months since the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player left the Houston Rockets just over a year ago.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Harden said he had always wanted to join the Sixers, who believe the 10-time All-Star can turn them into championship contenders.
“Originally when I was going through everything I was going through in Houston, Philly was my first choice,” Harden said. “I just knew for a very long time that this was a perfect fit.”
Harden said playing alongside Sixers big man Joel Embiid in a team coached by Doc Rivers had been key attractions.
“They’ve got the best big man in the league in Joel, they’ve got the coaching, from top to bottom it just made sense,” Harden said.
“I’m just happy to be here. And as Doc and everybody knows, the goal is to win and be the last team standing.”
The move to Philadelphia also reunites Harden with former Houston general manager Daryl Morey, who is the Sixers president of basketball.
Morey said the recruitment of Harden would shorten the odds on Philadelphia making a run at the NBA Finals.
“The way this league works, you have to get players of the calibre of a James Harden to pair with Joel (Embiid) and Tobias (Harris),” Morey said on Tuesday.
“You can win without it, but if you look at the history of the league you’re looking at pretty long odds if you don’t have two great players of that level of play on the court.
“We are well-positioned to go on a run and a run that excites the city of Philadelphia.”
Harden meanwhile believes his playing style will be the perfect foil for Embiid.
“I think we complement each other,” he said. “The whole world knows how great Joel has been playing. His presence at the moment is unbelievable.
“I feel like I’m the same way as far as making my teammates better and impacting the game at the highest level. And we have a great core of guys who can also help with that.”
Harden is also looking forward to working under Sixers coach Rivers, who is chasing a first NBA title since leading Boston to the championship in 2008.
“I’m working with one of the best coaches that’s ever coached basketball,” Harden said. “Why wouldn’t I want to be led by that? I’ve been doing this a long time but he’s been doing it much longer and is more experienced than me.
“From what I’ve seen in the past couple of days everything’s in place. Doc makes sure everyone knows their role in the structure. I’ve just got to go out there and do what I do. From my side it’s pretty easy.”