James Harden kicked off year two with the Philadelphia 76ers in strong fashion, dropping 35 points on the Boston Celtics during an opening night loss on Oct. 18 at TD Garden. However, after just nine games played in his campaign, the former league MVP has come face-to-face with a setback.
The 76ers All-Star guard has suffered a right foot tendon strain which reportedly will sideline him for a month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“Right foot tendon strain, imaging showed on James Harden today, injury suffered in that loss to Washington (Wizards) last night,” Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s “NBA Today” on Wednesday. “I’m told he’s expected to miss a month for the 76ers who, at 4-5, they enter a challenging stage of their schedule now. … I think this is a call for Joel Embiid again. You saw what he did last year when the Sixers were undermanned — had an MVP-caliber season. And he’ll certainly be called on again now to elevate his play.”
Through the season’s first nine games, Harden has averaged 22 points, seven rebounds, and a team-leading 10 assists per game. The 33-year-old veteran has shot 44.1% from the field, 33.3% from beyond the arc, and 92.9% from the charity stripe.
While a month-long absence isn’t a crucial blow, oddsmakers have shifted their beliefs slightly in Philadelphia. While the 76ers remain the betting favorites to finish the No. 4 seeded team in the Eastern Conference, as was the case when the NBA schedule was initially released, the odds have dropped on DraftKings Sportsbook.
In the month of November, the 76ers have a few prime-time matchups to overcome in the wake of Harden’s absence:
— Nov. 7 versus Phoenix Suns
— Nov. 18 versus Milwaukee Bucks
— Nov. 22 versus Brooklyn Nets
— Nov. 30 at Cleveland Cavaliers
Three of those four contests are against projected top-four seeded teams, according to DraftKings.
Previously sitting at +650 before the 76ers took the floor against the Celtics on opening night, the odds for Philadelphia to finish fourth in the East are currently +900 with the Cleveland Cavaliers — who are 6-1 to begin their campaign — have climbed up to favorites to finish third at +600.
The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t set to face off against the 76ers again until Feb. 8. However, with the 76ers playing the vast majority of their remaining November games against East opponents, the Celtics could use some early-season ground — sitting just a game ahead of Philadelphia before the Celtics matchup Friday against the Chicago Bulls.