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When James Harden was gearing up for the start of the 2021-2022 NBA season, he was going into his first full season with the Brooklyn Nets. 

Before the season started, Harden had an opportunity to pick up his player option for the 2022-2023 season. After declining to pick it up before the season started, Harden told reporters not to worry as he initially intended to pick it up after the season ended.

Midway through the year, Harden grew disgruntled in Brooklyn. In the weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline, Harden’s interest in remaining in Brooklyn deteriorated.

Eventually, the Nets were left with no choice but to move on by striking a blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to land Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and picks for Harden and the veteran forward, Paul Millsap.

When Harden was moved to the Sixers, there was an opportunity for the star guard to pick up his option once again. Although reports hinted he planned to, Harden and the Sixers missed the deadline to get it done.

During his introductory press conference back in February, Harden assured a room full of reporters that he planned to return to the Sixers next season.

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After playing with the Sixers for 21 regular-season games and 12 postseason matchups, Harden enters the 2022 offseason with the same mindset as he once again assured everybody that he plans to opt-in.

“Yeah, We’re trying to win a championship — that’s the goal,” said Harden. “So, whatever it looks like to continue to build, us individually, continuing to get to know each other and find out what works and what doesn’t work, things like that. I’ll be here — I’ll be here. Whatever allows this team to grow and be better and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level.”

Harden could return for the 2022-2023 season by making over $47 million for the year. He could also negotiate a new contract with the Sixers to stay in Philly for the long term. When asked if that was a possibility on Thursday, Harden made it apparent the door for that is open.

“Whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow and put us up there with the best of them,” Harden said. 

A lot can change over the next few weeks as the Sixers enter the offseason, but at this time, it seems Harden is confident he’ll be back on the 76ers for the start of the 2022-2023 NBA season.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.

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