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When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for the veteran All-Star James Harden this past season, the star guard had a small window to pick up his player option for next season after not doing so in Brooklyn.

While there were conflicting reports on Harden’s decision, the ten-time All-Star ultimately did not pick up his player option when he had the opportunity to do so last February.

However, Harden left no doubt that he would be back with the Sixers next season as he mentioned he planned to pick up his option during his introductory press conference in Philadelphia.

A few months later, Harden echoed a similar sentiment. Following the Sixers’ round two loss to the Miami Heat in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Harden was asked about whether he would return to the 76ers or not next season. 

“We’re trying to win a championship — that’s the goal,” said Harden back in May. “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.”

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While it seemed the plan was for Harden to pick up his player option for next season before landing a small extension with the Sixers, the star guard didn’t necessarily rule out taking on a discounted contract, either. “[I’ll do] whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow and put us up there with the best of them,” said Harden back in May. 

As it turns out, the star guard plans to do that. Despite countless reports hinting that Harden would accept his $47 million option, the ten-time All-Star declined it on Wednesday with intentions of returning to the Sixers on a multi-year deal.

Harden and the Sixers could’ve struck a deal when free agency started on Thursday. However, nothing is agreed on just yet. So, when does Harden plan to sign?

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Harden and the Sixers’ front office will meet this weekend to negotiate his new contract. Considering the Sixers went out and inked former Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, who is connected to Harden, with the money that The Beard’s declined option freed up, it indicates that it’s only a matter of when and not if Harden returns to the Sixers on a multi-year deal. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.

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