Sixers star Joel Embiid turned heads with his assessment of teammate James Harden following Philadelphia's season-ending loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
Embiid, the runner-up in MVP voting this season, was asked about Harden's performance in Philly after the midseason blockbuster trade that brought him to the Sixers from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Ben Simmons.
While allowing that all of the Sixers players could have played better -- more aggressively, as Embiid put it -- the five-time All-Star seemed to suggest that Harden is more of a facilitator these days rather than the scoring maven he was earlier in his career.
"I mean, I don't know, I think he's been -- obviously, I'm sure since we got him everybody expected the Houston James Harden, but that's not who he is anymore," Embiid said.
"He's more a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been -- as all of us -- could have been more aggressive."
The Sixers managed just 90 points against the stingy Heat defense in Game 6, with Harden logging 11 points on a relatively paltry nine attempts from the field. Embiid and guard Tyrese Maxey paced the team with 20 points apiece on 24 and 22 shots, respectively.
Harden, effectively serving as the primary ballhandler and distributor, finished with nine assists and four turnovers. The usually prolific free-throw shooter didn't reach the charity stripe in the defeat.
For the series, the Sixers fell shy of 100 points per game, finishing at 97.5. Harden's series-high scoring output came in Game 4, when he erupted for 31 points, including 6-of-10 from downtown. The 32-year-old perennial All-Star averaged 18 points per game in the series, down 3 points from his average output of 21 points per game in the regular season.
Perhaps compounding the confusion over Embiid's blunt assessment of Harden was his praise for former teammate turned opponent Jimmy Butler.
Embiid marveled at Butler's performance and wondered aloud how the Sixers ever permitted him to leave via an infamous sign-and-trade with the Heat following the 2018-19 season.