James Harden was savaged by US media on Friday following the 10-time NBA All-Star’s abject performance in the Philadelphia 76ers’ playoff exit.
Harden, signed from Brooklyn in February with the goal of turning the Sixers into championship contenders, was anonymous on Thursday as Philadelphia bowed out of the post-season in a 99-90 loss to Miami.
The 32-year-old former Most Valuable Player finished with just 11 points from 4-of-9 shooting from 42 minutes on the court.
But it was Harden’s second-half display as Philadelphia chased the game that drew the ire of critics.
Harden took just two shots in the second half — one each in the third and fourth quarters — for zero points.
James Harden Exposed At The Biggest Stage
“This was one of the most atrocious performances by a star in NBA playoff history,” ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said on the network’s “First Take” program. “James Harden was so bad last night it almost looked like he did it on purpose.”
Smith’s criticism was echoed by Fox Sports pundit Skip Bayless, who questioned Harden’s motivation.
“It became clear he wanted no part in the post-season because he does not care about winning,” Bayless said on the “Undisputed” show.
“He cares about winning MVP, he cares about being ranked in the NBA’s top 75 all-time players. He cares about making huge money… James Harden got exposed on the biggest stage.”
Adding insult to injury, a critical tweet by Bayless was liked by Ben Simmons, who was offloaded by Philadelphia in exchange for Harden in February. Simmons had received similar criticism after the Sixer’s playoff exit last season.
– ‘Pathetic effort’ –
ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Vitale, meanwhile, was also aghast at Harden’s display.
“Really a pathetic effort by Harden, a lock future Hall of Famer!” Vitale wrote on Twitter.
Speaking after Thursday’s loss, Harden said he hopes to remain in Philadelphia and is adamant the roster is capable of challenging for championships in the future.