James Harden joins 76ers on the bench for home opener, expected to practice with team on Tuesday

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James Harden is getting closer to making his season debut.

At least, after his latest saga with the Philadelphia 76ers, that’s what it seems like.

Harden attended the 76ers’ home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday and sat with the team on the bench, marking the first time he’s been with the franchise for a game this season. Harden participated in the team’s video work and walkthrough before the game at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, too.

Head coach Nick Nurse said Harden will likely rejoin the team for practice on Tuesday, though it’s still unclear when he will play in a game.

“James was here,” Nurse said before the game, via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He was here for the film session and walkthrough. The report on him is he had some good conditioning days, still in the ramp up process, looking to have him back in practice on Tuesday. That’s about where we are with that.”

Harden has made it very clear that he doesn’t want to be with the 76ers anymore. He picked up the $35.6 million option on his contract this past offseason with the expectation that the team would trade him elsewhere, but that’s yet to happen. Harden also called 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey a “liar” at an event in China in August, which prompted a $100,000 fine.

Harden’s preferred destination is the Los Angeles Clippers, but they reportedly paused trade talks with the 76ers as the season got going last week.

Harden spent 10 days away from the Sixers during training camp and the preseason, but he rejoined the team on Wednesday. He was then reportedly actually stopped by a security official from boarding the team’s plane for their two-game road trip to open the season. That decision was reportedly done to avoid disrupting the rest of the team, according to Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. The NBA has since opened an investigation into his absence, too, to “determine whether an approved reason exists for his lack of participation.”

The 76ers entered Sunday’s game with a 1-1 record, having lost their opener to the Milwaukee Bucks before grabbing a seven-point win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

The 76ers are off on Monday. Assuming Harden actually practices on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, it’s possible that he could appear in his first game on Thursday night when the 76ers host the Raptors — which marks the second of a five-game homestand for the franchise. But considering how things have gone between Harden and the organization so far this fall, it’s still anybody’s guess as to when he actually takes the court again in Philadelphia.

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