James Harden admits he experienced “dark moments” while going through injury setbacks over the past two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

The 33-year-old played 613 of 646 possible games across nine seasons with the Houston Rockets before missing 18 games through injury after being traded to the Nets during the 2020-21 campaign and struggling for form upon being traded to the 76ers.

He averaged just 21 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game across 21 outings in his opening season with the 76ers, but signed a two-year, $68.6m deal in July and returns primed for a starring role under Doc Rivers.

“For the most part, I’m to myself,” Harden said of his high personal standards. “Media or whoever, they talk and shoot their little jabs and shots or whatever the case may be. And I never respond, just because I know who I am and I know what I’m about.

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Harden produced 31 points, seven rebounds and nine assists in Game 4 of the 76ers’ win over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals

“But mentally, it was very, very difficult for me just because I’m in love with the game of basketball. If the money wasn’t involved, I’d be playing basketball. And before the injuries, I think everybody knows that. It was very difficult.

“A lot of tough times, lot of dark moments, which I’ve never really went through because I was always healthy and playing the game of basketball. But I’m in a really good space and I feel like I’m back to where I needed to be, where I’m supposed to be. The feeling is great.”

Harden revealed he lost 100 pounds in weight over the summer in preparation for the new season.

“At this point, it’s dieting, it’s proper rest, and then gaining more muscle mass, which I’ve always had,” he added. “It’s just the last year and a half, I wasn’t healthy enough to put the proper work in like I’m used to. This summer was huge for me in that aspect – the hill runs and the weightlifting, and then adding the skill on the court, as well.”

76ers forward Danuel House spent time with Harden in Houston and praised the 10-time All-Star for his impact both on and off the court.

“He’s a selfless guy,” said House. “On and off the court he does a lot of great deeds that aren’t talked about and he [doesn’t] want credit from it because it’s all done from the heart.

“Growing up around him and seeing all the things that he’s doing on and off the court it just makes my respect for him as an elite athlete so much greater. He’s a tremendous leader on and off the court and a selfless guy. He’s always willing to make sure he can help you in any way possible.”

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