Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden suffered a tendon sprain in his right foot on Wednesday night and is expected to miss the next month of the NBA season, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday.
Harden played 35 minutes of Wednesday's 121-111 loss to the Washington Wizards, which dropped the Sixers' record to 4-5. The 33-year-old limped to the locker room with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter, carrying his right shoe. Harden returned in the fourth quarter to play the game's final seven-plus minutes.
After the game, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters he was unsure what happened to Harden.
"There was a stretch when we were waiting for him to come back in the game," said Rivers, "and he was in the locker room. I don't ever check what. I just know he wasn't there to come back in, so I don't know if something happened in the second half or if it was a continuation of something that happened in the first."
The one-time league MVP and 10-time All-Star appeared in each of Philadelphia's first nine games, averaging 22 points (on 44/33/93 shooting splits), 10 assists and seven rebounds in 36.8 minutes.
After missing a total of 43 games in his first 11 seasons, Harden has been plagued by injury ever since he requested a trade from the Houston Rockets prior to reporting to 2020 training camp late and out of shape.
Following a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, he missed 21 of the final 24 games of the 2020-21 regular season to a left hamstring injury. He re-aggravated the injury in June 2021 and missed three playoff games before limping through the last half of a seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Harden still felt tightness in his left hamstring this past February, when he forced a trade to the Sixers and missed his first four games with his new team. He appeared a step slower for the remainder of the season.
“It was very difficult, a lot of tough times, a lot of dark moments, which I’ve never really went through, because I was always healthy and playing the game of basketball,” Harden said on Sixers media day in September, when he was asked about missing another 43 games over the past two seasons. "I’m in a really good space right now and I feel like I’m back to where I needed to be and where I’m supposed to be."
Harden's injury puts an added onus on Sixers star Joel Embiid, who has carried a considerable load during two straight runner-up campaigns for MVP and was looking forward to sharing that burden this season. The emergence of Tyrese Maxey as an efficient volume scoring option should ease some of Embiid's concerns.
Philadelphia is scheduled to play 13 games before the calendar turns to December in four weeks.
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