Let’s pivot off from Basketball Paul for a minute to check in with Joel Embiid:

Embiid:

“Disappointed, but then again I also understand. You know, it’s business. People make decisions and I’m more appreciative of the way he’s handled the whole situation. We’re gonna be boys forever, want him to come back obviously, so we can go out and accomplish what we want, which is to win a championship. So hopefully his mindset can be changed. But other than that I’m just so happy to be his friend. We’re close and we’ve grown since he’s got here.”

It’s not like Joel is gonna come out and say “yeah Harden can take a fuckin hike,” but it’s also believable that he’d want Harden back. Embiid won MVP playing alongside the veteran point guard, who was the best facilitator and offensive initiator Joel has ever played with. That includes Ben Simmons, who may or may not be the recipient of a dig in that “more appreciative of the way he’s handled the whole situation” line.

Regardless of what happens, the Sixers benefit from Harden opting in. Either they get assets back in a trade or he walks after one more manageable year. No long-term contract bogging you down (at least not yet), and he doesn’t take off without providing anything more than cap relief.