PHILADELPHIA (AP) — James Harden’s 76ers jerseys were stitched to order on the concourse for fans who could not wait until he had even played a game. They also plunked down $164.99 for Harden’s No. 1 jerseys in red and in blue that lined racks next to Joel Embiid’s No. 21 inside the team store.

The Harden jersey price is a steal compared to what the Sixers will pay the real deal to wear the uniform this season.

READ MORE: Pete Rose Dismisses Sexual Misconduct Questions At Phillies' Alumni Weekend

The Sixers expect Harden’s arrival to be worth what they paid in talent, salary and draft picks — things needed to shoot them toward their first NBA championship since 1983. The question is, when?

Harden will not play for the Philadelphia 76ers in games Friday and Saturday night, and his debut is on hold until he’s evaluated this weekend by the team’s performance staff.

The earliest that Harden, who is being paid $44.3 million this season, could play for the 76ers is at home Tuesday against Boston. The Sixers also play Thursday at NBA champion Milwaukee before the All-Star break.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers was once recruited by Harden to coach the three-time scoring champion when he played for the Houston Rockets. The duo talked three times since Thursday when the Sixers acquired Harden from Brooklyn for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, but none of the conversations involved his potential debut.

The 2018 MVP would have missed his his fourth straight game Thursday with a hamstring injury.

“I want to make sure he’s right before we get him on the floor,” Rivers said.

The Sixers wasted no time decluttering team headquarters in New Jersey — the oversized Simmons magazine cover that hung inside the 76ers’ training complex was gone — and at the Wells Fargo Center, well, goodbye, Curry banners.

Another new era is set to begin soon with the superstar pairing of one-time MVP Harden with Embiid, this season’s MVP front-runner. Embiid leads the league in scoring at 29.4 points and has scored at least 25 points in 30 straight games.

The pressure was on in Philly not to waste a season of his prime. And the clock is ticking for Harden to win a championship. He has averaged 25.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists in his career with Brooklyn, Houston and Oklahoma City. But none of his 12 seasons ended with a championship.

The Sixers head into Friday’s game against Oklahoma City at 32-22 and three games out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Week Starts With Muggy Conditions Before Cold Front Arrives

Rivers plans to quickly catch Harden up to speed.

“He literally just said the practices and the shootarounds now are going to be more intense just because we’ve got a limited amount of time to figure it out,” guard Tyrese Maxey said. “I can’t wait. It’s a great group of guys and I can’t wait to get started.”

Harden and Simmons were both unhappy with their roles with their old teams. Simmons demanded an offseason trade as the pressure of playing in Philly got to him, and Harden has now forced his way onto a new team for the second straight year.

Harden could have left this summer as a free agent. The Nets decided it wasn’t worth the risk to wait, ending their Big Three experiment of Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving after the trio played only 16 games together.

And Simmons had few fans left in Philly after he decided to sit out the season. Philadelphia’s local ABC affiliate opened Thursday night’s broadcast with the top story, “The man who refused to make a layup, and then refused to play a season, is now a Brooklyn Net.”

The Simmons saga is over for the Sixers, and Rivers said: “I’m glad it’s behind us.”

The Nets also acquired 2022 and 2027 draft picks. The Sixers also will get Paul Millsap.

Maxey, the second-year player who took over for Simmons at point guard, was close with Simmons but had yet to speak to his former teammate. He’s ready to get going with Harden.

“It’s kind of crazy, just because he’s one of the guys you play as in 2K when you’re a younger kid,” the 21-year-old Maxey said. “One of my best friends that I had throughout high school, he’s like the biggest James Harden fan when we were growing up. So I texted him last night, we talked about it a little bit, and he’s like, it’s crazy.”

Sixers President Daryl Morey made the deal with a championship this season in mind, and now it’s up to Rivers to make it work after he failed to get the top-seeded Sixers out of the second round last year.

“I think the reason we did this deal is so we could jump into the fray,” Rivers said.

MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Officer Hit By Car In Tioga Section

(©Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)