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Sixers Notebook: James Harden didn’t appreciate the booing

PHILADELPHIA — From his former teammates to the venue, forward P.J. Tucker enjoyed the memories on his first trip to Wells Fargo Center since the Sixers traded him and James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Everything from the playoffs after coming here to that energy to just every day knowing the people here,” Tucker said. “Knowing all the guys that park the cars, the locker room attendants, everything, it’s just all the memories. It’s just automatic. It’s great. It’s amazing just to see people, especially when you had a good time and you enjoyed playing in this city and for that team.”

Harden meanwhile thought he was misunderstood and undeserving of the reception he got from Sixers fans.

“I expected it,” Harden said. “I really don’t know what it’s about, but I expected it. So it is what it is. I don’t even know why they were booing. You can ask them. I don’t know why they were booing. I think I did a lot. I had a very impactful positive impact on a lot of people. I’m grateful for those relationships. I’m grateful for the opportunity and things like that. Those are things that I can cherish and move on with. Everything else doesn’t matter.”

The Clippers checked in as the fourth seed in the Western Conference but were just 7-7 in March. On this night the they got well as Kawhi Leonard contributed a couple of big and-1’s down the homestretch and Paul George ruggedly mirrored Kelly Oubre on the last shot, which replays showed was a bang-bang call. No foul was called.

“Listen, I think he took it in there pretty hard,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse said of Oubre. “I looked it on our computer screen a couple times. I thought there was certainly contact. Certainly as much as the last two or three that got called and 1’s at the other end. And that’s all. I just thought it was enough contact to call. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. I mean, if we don’t turn it over a couple times … “

In November the Sixers dealt the disgruntled Harden, Tucker and Filip Petrusev to the Clippers for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batum, KJ Martin, a 2028 unprotected first-round pick, two second-round picks, a 2029 pick swap and an additional first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With the 38-year-old Tucker, along with Harden (34), who produced 16 points and 14 assists Wednesday, Leonard, 32, who had 17 points and nine boards, George, 33, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Russell Westbrook, 35, the Clippers are the golden oldies of the NBA. Yet the geezers proved they still had enough left in the tank.

Harden in 64 games with the Clippers averaged 17.1 points. 8.5 assists and 5.1 boards this season. He was a key piece on the Sixers’ squad that earned a 3-1 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, only to blow it in Game 7, costing Doc Rivers his job. Harden forced a trade a few months after calling Sixers president Daryl Morey a “liar,” an insult that earned the veteran player a $100,000 fine.

Harden was demonstrative when asked if he’d ever patch things up with Morey.

“No,” Harden said. “Hell no.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue wasn’t concerned about Harden going out of body to prove anything to Sixers fans, who booed him during the introductions, almost each time he touched the ball and on every missed shot. The crowd cheered when he collected a foul.

“I think we’re definitely locked in,” Lue said. “We understand the task at hand. I just focus on what James has done for us, and he’s been really good. We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in right now as far as being the fourth seed without his play. So, I’ll just focus on what he’s brought to our team and how he’s been for us.”

There is no questioning Harden’s skills. The third pick in the 2014 draft along with Steph Curry, who came off the board at No. 7, are the only certain Hall of Famers from that relatively average lottery.

Harden, 34, entered Wednesday with 25,787 points, averaging 24.2 points in a 16-year career. He’s led the league in scoring three times, was the 2018 MVP and at age 33 last year, led the circuit in assists.

Tucker is more a man of the people. Thirty-eight-year-old Sixers guard Kyle Lowrey is the only remaining active player selected ahead of Tucker, the fifth pick in the second round of the 2006 draft.

“It’s good to be back,” Tucker said. “I mean, we had a really good team, we had a chance to do something special. We didn’t get as far as we wanted but I feel it was great. Love the fans here. Super motivating stuff for the love of walking around the city and being around Sixers fans. It’s pretty cool.”

• • •

Nurse said Joel Embiid has been working on skills and activities to ramp up for a return this season.

Nurse didn’t hesitate when asked if Embiid and his surgically repaired meniscus would return before the playoffs.

“I think there’s a very good likelihood that he will return before the play-in playoffs,” Nurse said. “He’s out there working. He’s doing lots of skill work and things like that. He’s on the court.”

Entering Wednesday the Sixers are 13-25 in games without Embiid and 26-8 with him this season.

• • •

The explosion of legalized gambling has not gone unnoticed by the players, many of them subject to prop bets. Fans disappointed by the output of teams and players have made their feelings known, sometimes alarmingly according to Tucker.

“When guys are not doing whatever they bet on or losing … it’s getting outrageous,” Tucker said. “It’s getting kind of crazy. In the arenas you hear fans yelling at people because of their bets. It’s unreal. It’s something I’ve talked about for a while and I even posted about.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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