NBA: James Harden watches 76ers beat winless Trail Blazers
PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid had 35 points and 15 rebounds, Tyrese Maxey added 26 points and 10 boards, and James Harden watched it all from Philadelphia’s bench in the 76ers’ 126-98 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
Shaedon Sharpe led winless Portland (0-3) with 20 points and Malcom Brogdon had 18.
Harden yanked his yellow hood over his head and laughed at times with his teammates — notably P.J. Tucker — as he sat out a third straight game. The official listed reason: return to competition reconditioning.
Harden has practiced off and on with the Sixers and participated in Sunday’s film session and walkthrough. But his trade demand lingers over the organization and there’s no telling when it will be resolved.
Harden had a quick highlight or two in the pregame hype video, though the 10-time All-Star was otherwise not acknowledged by the Sixers.
Reigning #KiaMVP Joel Embiid made his presence felt in the Sixers' home-opener!
6 BLK pic.twitter.com/0WNWxCuqmd
— NBA (@NBA) October 30, 2023
Embiid’s status for the home opener also was in doubt after an early morning arrival from Canada following Saturday night’s victory over the Raptors. The 76ers flirted with resting Embiid.
Portland would have gladly signed up that option.
Embiid instead was fired up, no doubt galvanized by the “MVP! MVP!” chants that echoed throughout the Wells Fargo Center. The calls from 20,000 fans each night for Embiid to win the award was spoken into existence last season. He was voted NBA MVP — that has Harden who bear-hugged Embiid when his name was called — and won his second straight league scoring title.
Embiid and 76ers were also bounced from the second round and that ugly exit sparked an offseason of upheaval. Nick Nurse took over as coach for the fired Doc Rivers. Harden later demanded a trade, called team president Daryl Morey a liar, and was a late arrival for training camp.
Embiid always gives Philly a glimmer of hope.
He also had seven assists, six blocked shots and four WWE-style crotch chops that helped the Sixers build an 18-point lead through three.
De’Anthony Melton heaved a pass from free throw line to free throw line that Embiid caught and drove to the bucket for a finger-roll layup and a 93-71 lead. Embiid then mimicked a crude Degeneration X chop that sent the crowd into a frenzy. He missed the free throw but, who cared at that point?
The Embiid-Maxey two-man game clicked from tipoff and could go a long way toward easing the potential loss of Harden. Maxey scored 10 fast points in the first quarter and made all 10 free throws overall.
Trail Blazers: Visit Toronto on Monday.
76ers: Host Toronto on Thursday.