Before newly-acquired Philadelphia 76ers point guard James Harden is set to make his debut on Feb. 25, he battled it out against teammate Joel Embiid.
There are many reasons the Ben Simmons/James Harden trade seems to be working out for all parties, but a primary one is this: Harden no longer has to face off against the league’s MVP frontrunner. At least not in games, anyway.
Harden vs. Embiid now only happens at practice, and based on footage from Harden’s pre-game practice with the team, the 7-foot Sixers big man had no issue shutting down their newly-acquired veteran point guard.
Harden has yet to hit the hardwood for Philadelphia, but the 32-year-old point guard is set to make his debut on Feb. 25 as the 76ers face the Minnesota Timberwolves.
James Harden and Joel Embiid battle it out in initial 76ers practice
Facing a teammate like Embiid on a team destined for the playoffs could only serve to sharpen Harden, who reportedly showed up to the 2021-22 season lacking proper conditioning. Although Harden is one of the best guards in the league, being shamed by Embiid’s play at practice could prompt him to tighten up his game.
Embiid, on the other hand, has outperformed expectations — even his own. The 27-year-old big man headed into the 2021-22 season hoping for a Defensive Player of the Year nod, but he’s easily on track to take the Most Valuable Player award. Embiid, who has had his maximum potential sidelined by injury throughout his career, has pulled up the 76ers away from distracting headlines and locker room drama into the Eastern Conference spotlight.
Over their NBA careers, Embiid and Harden have played against one another 10 times, with each player winning five times. Each of them has shot better than 50 percent from the field, with Harden having a slight upper hand in scoring.
If anyone can get the best out of Harden, it’s Embiid, perhaps even to the point that Harden hurts Embiid’s MVP case. At the very least, Harden will be motivated to avoid getting dunked on in future leaked practice videos.