The James Harden trade saga with the Philadelphia 76ers appeared to come to a conclusion on Saturday … for now. A report by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN indicated that the Sixers made the decision to stop looking for a Harden trade, even though the former league MVP opted into the final year of his contract and asked for a trade. Philadelphia’s rationale appears to be that the front office can’t do a Harden deal that keeps them a championship contender, and as a result, the plan is to run it back next year.
Of course, this is James Harden we’re talking about here, and if there is one thing he’s extremely good at, it’s forcing his way out of a situation he no longer wants to be in. Each of Harden’s last two stops, in Houston and Brooklyn, ended with him wanting a change in scenery, doing what he needed to do in order to get it, and eventually, getting his way.
Philadelphia appears prepared to accept that this might get a bit bumpy, but according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Harden’s camp views things a little differently. Apparently, Harden has decided his time with the team is over, to the point that he doesn’t intend to be there when training camp starts.
No matter what signals the Sixers might send when it comes to trade talks, a source close to Harden reiterated that the 10-time All-Star and former MVP no longer wants to play for Philadelphia and has no plans of taking part in training camp. Does that mean he won’t report if a deal doesn’t go down by that point, or that he’ll make a messy spectacle of his training camp arrival like he did when he was trying to get out of Houston back in December of 2020? That part remains unclear, with Harden’s side still expressing a belief that there will be meaningful developments on the trade talk front before that time comes. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
How this all plays out is going to be fascinating, because Harden is about to turn 34 and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to get a lucrative new contract as an unrestricted free agent next summer unless he has a monster year this season. That should, in theory, help the Sixers, but Harden’s mind being made up has been a major issue for teams in the past. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when training camp rolls around, and whether the Sixers’ bet ends up being worth it.