While there is a great deal of attention on Damian Lillard and his ongoing focus on landing a trade out of Portland, another situation involving an established superstar continues to unfold at a glacial pace. James Harden has an established (and re-established) trade request with the Philadelphia 76ers and, in an odd situation, it comes after Harden chose to exercise his player option and effectively remove himself from clear agency in the situation.
Beyond that, Harden and Daryl Morey, Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, have an extensive shared history dating back to Houston, but The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Monday that the the relationship between the two parties is “essentially severed” and “essentially fractured” at this stage.
“The relationship between James Harden and Daryl Morey is essentially severed, it’s essentially fractured throughout this process.”
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“It’s essentially severed,” Charania said on Bally Sports‘ The Rally. “It’s essentially fractured throughout this process. There’s no longer that valve of open-minded, open-ended trust that we’ve seen over the course of 692 games that Daryl Morey and James Harden have been together in Houston and in Philly.”
Later, Charania noted that the relationship is “nowhere close to being on solid ground,” furthering illustrating the clear divide. Charania indicated that Harden’s decision to opt in “stemmed from James Harden believing that there was no real intention from the Sixers in giving him a long-term offer as a free agent.” If that was Harden’s belief, it would have left the star guard without an internal bidder and, with salary cap space dwindling around the league, he clearly believed that opting in and attempting to force a trade was the superior option to testing the unrestricted free agent market on his own.
During Charania’s comments, he described Harden as being “incredibly unnerved” by how Philadelphia has handled the situation, noting again that Harden took a pay cut last season to make things easier on the Sixers. On the other hand, Morey is well known for his unwillingness to consider anything beyond on-court dynamics when evaluating basketball decisions, though some of the optimism around Harden potentially sticking around in Philadelphia was seemingly rooted in the potential for reconciliation. If Charania’s reporting here is accurate, that seems more and more unlikely, leaving all sides in a precarious position as Harden wants out and the 76ers seek the best basketball result for a team that is aiming to win in the short term.