Clippers' James Harden explains why he doesn't care about reception in Philly return to face 76ers


For the third time in the past three years and change, James Harden is set to return to where he left on bad terms. In March of 2021, he returned to Houston after forcing his way to Brooklyn to receive boos from a light, COVID-era crowd. When he made his first trip back to Brooklyn as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in February of 2023, the more crowded building booed even harder.

On Wednesday, Harden will likely face the worst crowd reaction of his career when his Los Angeles Clippers arrive in Philadelphia to face the 76ers. Harden didn’t just leave Philadelphia. He burned just about every bridge on his way out of town. That included a long-time relationship with general manager Daryl Morey, whom he spent nearly a decade with in Houston, when he called his former Houston colleague a liar last offseason. Philadelphia fans are relentless on the best of days. They’ll be sure to make their anger with Harden known when he steps on the floor Wednesday.

But that doesn’t bother the Clippers star much for a very simple reason. “We have bigger problems than me worrying about Philadelphia, you know what I mean?” Harden said Monday, according to The Athletic’s Law Murray. His Clippers are now 10-12 in their past 22 games. Things have gone so poorly lately that Harden even attempted to block a shot attempt by Kawhi Leonard in an apparent effort to lighten the mood. After making a genuine run at the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference following a 26-5 stretch earlier in the season, the Clippers are fighting with the New Orleans Pelicans right now just to stay in the top four.

Harden’s own performance is at the center of that slide. His scoring numbers and shooting percentages are trending down. More pressingly, the Clippers can’t get a stop with him on the floor. During this 22-game stretch, the Clippers are allowing over 120 points per 100 possessions with Harden in the game. When he rests, that figure goes down by more than eight points… but the Clippers offense declines nearly as much.

These aren’t problems that can be fixed overnight, but if Harden’s own history is any indication, the Clippers should at least expect to take a step in the right direction on Wednesday. Harden won his return to Houston in 2021 and he won his return to Brooklyn in 2023. A victory over the 76ers would give the Clippers a game of breathing room over the Pelicans, who lost to the Thunder on Tuesday.

But a single game is trivial compared to the greater picture. The Clippers haven’t played consistent, two-way basketball in almost two months. That is a much bigger problem than anything Harden can expect out of Philadelphia’s raucous fans.

Looking for more NBA coverage? John Gonzalez, Bill Reiter, Ashley Nicole Moss and special guests dive deep into the league’s biggest storylines daily on the Beyond the Arc podcast.

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