By Teddy Brenner
James Harden was born in Los Angeles, and he has played at Arizona State, and in the NBA in Oklahoma City, Houston and Brooklyn.
So, Mr. Harden, how do you like playing in Philly?
“Just exciting,” Harden said.
“The love, the fans, it feels like home. Just the love, the support, man, from looking around, hearing, ‘We love you, James.’
“That right there makes me go out and play harder, and I just wanted to do whatever it takes to get the win.”
“I mean, we all just fit together,” said Joel Embiid, who finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks in 34 minutes. “You’ve got someone in James that comes in with his experience and his playmaking ability, scoring ability, and you add up what he adds and he’s been amazing, and what we have on the team. It all fits.”
Harden got in Tyrese Maxey’s face at halftime, and 21 of Maxey’s points came after halftime, when he said Harden gave him a wake-up call.
“James came up to me and asked me if I was going to play today,” Maxey said with a smile while addressing their halftime conversation, “and I told him, ‘Yeah.’
“Having guys like James, [Embiid], Tobias [Harris], just saying I’ve got to be aggressive … I can’t go stretches like that being passive. I’ve got to help these guys out, and we’ve got to help these guys out as a team as much as possible.”
Said Harden: “We need him to be aggressive. I know it’s difficult because myself and Joel have the ball, but when he has an opportunity, he needs to be aggressive.”
Ultimately, though, Philadelphia is going as far as its new superstar tandem of Harden and Embiid can take them.
Beginning Friday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit, the 76ers play nine of their next 10 games against playoff teams before going on a five-game road trip to end the month — a far tougher stretch than the opening three games they have played in the Harden era.
For now, though, the 76ers will take the wins when they can get them, as they continue to try to build toward what, they hope, will be a long playoff run this spring.
“Every game for us is gonna be tough,” Harden said. “We’re new, we’re fairly new, we’re still learning each other. Every game is going to be a learning experience for us, and we’ve got to just find ways to continue to chip away, continue to get better, win or lose. Obviously it’s better when you win to figure it out, but it’s going to be great tests for us and we’re really looking forward to it.”