James Harden and Daryl Morey were once as aligned as a star player and general manager could be, but after a decade of working together in Houston and now Philadelphia, their relationship has fractured completely.
Harden picked up his $35 million player option this summer and requested to be traded, but Morey has not been able to thread the needle of giving Harden the trade he wants and getting the Sixers enough back in return to keep them near the top of the East. The result has been a stalemate, with the Sixers stopping talks with the Clippers and planning on just bringing Harden back for camp. Harden has made clear he won’t just go along with that, and has made it his life’s work to make things as uncomfortable as possible in Philly.
Most recently, that included him ripping Morey at a kids camp in China, calling him a liar and insisting he’ll never play for an organization that Morey is running again. That sparked an NBA investigation into Harden’s comments, as the liar portion was assumed by many to be about a handshake deal from last summer after Harden took a pay cut to bring in P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. However, Harden told the league that his comment was not about any agreement last year to pay him this year, but instead about Morey saying he’d trade him quickly.
That seems to have shifted the league’s eyes from Morey and back to Harden, with the star guard being handed a $100,000 fine by the league for issuing a “public trade demand” and saying he would “not perform the services called for under his player contract.”
The following has been released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/j3VZLxgXA5
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) August 22, 2023
It is pretty wild that after Harden’s comments and the NBA’s announced investigation many expected there to be some punishment headed the Sixers way if the league learned of some agreement between the two sides dating back to last summer that got broken. Instead, Harden was just really mad about not being traded yet and got himself the maximum allowable fine under the new CBA. This also comes after the league sent a memo warning players about issuing public trade demands after Damian Lillard and his agent made clear he wanted to be in Miami, which was a warning that was heeded by Lillard’s camp but apparently not by Harden.