Philadelphia 76ers Won’t Trade James Harden, Drama Ensues

Posted on: August 15, 2023, 11:21h. 

Last updated on: August 15, 2023, 11:34h.

The plot thickens in the latest trade standoff between former NBA MVP James Harden and Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers.

James Harden

Harden requested a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers in June but the 76ers were unable to work out a deal because their asking price for the 10-time NBA All-Star was too high.

On Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 76ers won’t trade Harden. The Clippers balked on a trade with the 76ers, and the exorbitant asking price for Harden turned off any other potential suitors. Without a viable deal available, the 76ers have reached an impasse.

When the 76ers announced they won’t trade him, Harden lashed out and publicly called Morey a liar.

The 76ers (54-28) secured the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and were led by an inspiring performance from center Joel Embiid, who won his first MVP award last season.

The 76ers swept the #6 Brooklyn Nets in the first round but were eliminated by the #2 Boston Celtics during a fierce, seven-game battle in the Eastern Conference semifinals. After a hot start, Harden went ice-cold later in the series. He scored only seven points in a do-or-die Game 7 elimination game, including zero points in the second half.

Harden Opts in for $35.6M, Requests Trade to Clippers

The 76ers fired head coach Doc Rivers shortly after getting knocked out of the playoffs. Rumors swirled that the New York Knicks were the leading contender to add Embiid in a trade, which was insane considering Embiid had just won his first MVP.

Morey and the 76ers were quick to quell the Embiid trade rumors. Embiid, who is often honest to a fault, stated that his goal was to win an NBA championship with whichever team gave him the best chance to win a ring.

The next step for the 76ers hinged upon the future of Harden, who could pursue free agency or trigger his player option for one more year on a contract that would pay him $35.6 million.

Prior to last season, Harden signed a new contract to provide the 76ers with financial flexibility. Harden took a pay cut to $33 million under the assumption the 76ers would take care of him during their next round of contract negotiations. Harden and Morey had a wink-wink deal where he would either “get the bag” or the 76ers would trade him to a team of his choosing.

The vibe was tainted according to Harden’s camp when the 76ers said they weren’t interested in a contract extension. If Harden explored free agency, the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic were among the few teams with the available cap space to provide him with a max contract. However, the Rockets and Magic were among the worst squads in the NBA the last few seasons, and wouldn’t even be in contention for a playoff seed, let alone compete for a championship.

In June, Harden picked up his $35.6 million player option if the 76ers agreed to trade him. Harden specifically requested a trade to the Clippers.

Harden: ‘Morey is a Liar’

On Monday, during an appearance at an Adidas-sponsored camp in China, Harden responded to the recent news with harsh words. He dropped the L-word after he was asked about the 76ers not trading him.

Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” said Harden. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

Harden has few options, however. He cannot willingly sit out this upcoming season due to a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents a player from strong-arming a team in the final year of his contract. If Harden attempts a sit-out, the terms of his contract get extended to the next season.

Harden will have to play this season with the 76ers unless he exaggerates the severity of an injury. It’s a low-brow tactic that athletes utilized in the past. There’s some hope that Morey changes his mind about trading Harden before the deadline and that the asking price for him goes down. Circumstances could change throughout an NBA season. Injuries pile up on contenders, and surprise teams make an expected run. Teams might become desperate and have no choice but to overpay for Harden.

Futures Market: Nick Nurse and the 76ers

The window to win a championship with Embiid gets smaller with every passing year. The 76ers squandered their last couple of seasons in the wake of the Ben Simmons drama, and they might waste this season due to the fallout between Harden and Morey.

The 76ers failed to reach the NBA Finals under Rivers as their head coach. Rivers won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2007-08, but he lost his luster in the postseason during his tenure with the Clippers and the 76ers.

The 76ers brought in offensive guru Nick Nurse as their new head coach. Nurse won a championship with the Toronto Raptors in the 2108-19 season and took the job because he believes the 76ers have a championship-caliber team with Embiid and Harden at the core. They’re +1500 odds to win the 2023-24 NBA championship and are eighth on the overall futures board at DraftKings.

They haven’t won a championship in 40 years since Julius “Dr. J” Irving led them to a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals.

The 76ers are +650 odds to win the Eastern Conference title, and they’re fourth on the futures board. They last won a conference crown in 2001.

The Boston Celtics are the betting favorite to win the Atlantic Division title at -210 odds, and they’re ahead of the 76ers (+280), New York Knicks (+800), Brooklyn Nets (+2500), and Toronto Raptors (+3500).

The 76ers won 54 games last season, but have a win total of 49.5 over/under victories this upcoming season.