FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — James Harden made his return to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday for training camp. He went through most of the drills. His new coach said he “looked good.”
That’s about as much clarity as there is at the moment for the disgruntled guard who had been seeking a trade.
No, he didn’t address his teammates about the situation before practice. No, he didn’t give any updates on his plans.
And no, he shouldn’t have to, teammate Tobias Harris maintained.
“His participation, in my opinion, is addressing that he’s here,” Harris said. “His attitude and energy today allowed everybody to understand that. He wants to go out here and compete with us and get stuff done. That’s just all really that matters, is his energy, and effort toward myself and all the teammates.”
The 10-time All-Star arrived on the Colorado State campus for practice in spite of a fractured relationship with the Sixers’ front office. He skipped the team’s media day in New Jersey on Monday and the first day of camp in Colorado on Tuesday.
Harden in June picked up his $35.6 million contract option for this season with the belief the team would try to trade him. He blasted team president Daryl Morey at a promotional event in China when no trade materialized, calling Morey a liar.
That was the backdrop entering Wednesday, when new Sixers coach Nick Nurse said he had a chat with Harden just before practice.
“The whistle blew, and we got to work,” Nurse said as he took over for Doc Rivers, who never led the Sixers past the second round of the playoffs. “He looked good, participated in a majority of it anyway. Looks like he’s physically in good shape.”
The 76ers are conducting workouts this week at Moby Arena, which is the home of the Rams’ basketball teams. Harden didn’t talk to reporters Wednesday. His teammates understand this is just the business side of hoops.
“He’s not in here disrespecting any one of his teammates,” Harris said. “At the end of the day, we are out here to play basketball and do our job, represent the city and help bring a championship to Philadelphia.”
The Sixers are venturing out in the area, too. Joel Embiid and teammates recently made a trip to nearby Boulder for dinner and a chat session with Colorado football coach Deion Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Sanders discussed topics such as pressure, unity, being in the moment and what it’s like to go from a historically Black college or university in Jackson State to a struggling program at Colorado that was coming off a 1-11 season. The Buffaloes (3-2) remain the talk of college football.
David Adelman, one of the Sixers’ owners, said before the meal that Nurse requested the Colorado excursion to squeeze in some training at elevation (Fort Collins is about 5,000 feet above sea level). Down the interstate about 60 miles, the Nuggets won their first NBA title in franchise history by beating Miami in five games last June.
“The road to a championship for the NBA goes through Denver,” Adelman said shortly after the team met Sanders. “We’re going to get used to it because you’ll see us here in June.”
The 76ers return the reigning NBA MVP in Embiid. To bolster its roster, Philly added guard Patrick Beverley and center Mo Bamba. The team also brought back veteran Danny Green.
“You added some pieces. And you add some pieces that you feel should be the difference,” Sanders said to the Sixers at dinner. “Straight up, you guys really look at each other and hold each other accountable and you have to realize, how bad do you really want it? What are you willing to do for it? What are you willing to sacrifice for it, and how far are you willing to go for it? How hard are you willing to work for it?
“You all are among the best in the business, right? But you’ve got to put it together.”
Sanders also referenced Embiid sitting out a late-season showdown with Nikola Jokic, the two-time NBA MVP, last season in Denver. Embiid was sidelined with a sore right calf.
“A lot of folks duck that smoke right now. They want to be Tarzan on paper,” Sanders said. “Don’t sell the game that this is what I’m going to get and then when I turn on the TV I don’t get that. I don’t like that. Give me that.
“If Embiid is playing the Joker, I want to see Embiid versus the Joker. I want to see that and he goes and get it. I love it. I love the matchup. Because I want to see it.”
The Sixers didn’t take it as a slight.
“His (Sanders) big thing is he always wants to see competition,” Harris said, “and wants to see us be at our best as a whole as a group.”
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