NBA: Harden opts out of Sixers contract but expected to stay in Philly: reports

James Harden averaged 22 points and 10.3 assists in 65 games with the Nets and 76ers last season. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden has declined his US$47.36 million (S$65.96 million) player option for next season but plans to stay with the NBA club that will now have more money available to bolster their roster, US media reported on Wednesday (June 29).

The Philadelphia Inquirer was among multiple outlets reporting the move as the NBA's deadline for picking up or declining contract options passed.

Harden, who joined the 76ers in February in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, is reportedly prepared to accept less than the maximum he could command as a free agent as the Sixers seek to add talent around him and star centre Joel Embiid.

The Inquirer reported that PJ Tucker, a former teammate of Harden's at Houston when current Sixers executive Daryl Morey was with the Rockets, is likely headed to Philadelphia.

Harden, 32, spent more than eight seasons in Houston before he forced a trade to the Nets in January of 2021.

He averaged 22 points and 10.3 assists in 65 games with the Nets and 76ers last season, during which he was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ben Simmons and Seth Curry to the Nets.

Even with Embiid and Harden, the 76ers lost in the second round of the play-offs.

After the Miami Heat eliminated the 76ers in six games in the Eastern Conference finals, Harden indicated he planned to remain in Philadelphia - and do what he could contractually to help them build a winning team.

"I'll be here, yeah," he said. "Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better - and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level."

In other contract moves, ESPN reported that Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal declined his US$36.4 million option and will become a free agent.

The Wizards will still have a chance to sign Beal to a new five-year maximum contract or he could decide to sign with another team on a four-year maximum deal.

The free agency negotiating period begins on Thursday.

In an eye-catching pre-free agency move, the Atlanta Hawks reportedly acquired All-Star guard Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs for veteran Danilo Gallinari and three future first-round draft selections.

Murray, 25, made his NBA debut with the Spurs during the 2016-17 season. He was the last remaining player on the Spurs roster to have played with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Murray scored 21.1 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, and 9.2 assists last season and finished second in the league with 13 triple-doubles.

He will be a dangerous complement to explosive Atlanta scorer Trae Young as the Hawks aim to regain the magic that saw them reach the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago before they fell in the first round to Miami this season after fighting through the play-in.

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