After missing 10 days to end training camp while tending to a personal matter in Houston, James Harden returned to Philadelphia on Wednesday ahead of the start of the regular season for the 76ers. Later that day, the Sixers were set to fly to Milwaukee for their season opener against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, and the Bucks on Thursday night.
However, while Harden planned to join the team on their road trip as he ramped back up to eventually playing, the Sixers asked him to stay in Philly and workout in the facility so they could better monitor his condition. Harden did not see that as a demand but a request, and according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, arrived at the airport ready to fly to Milwaukee only to be stopped by team security who told him he could not get on the plane.
Harden had returned with the intention of re-acclimating himself with the team, knowing assistant coach Rico Hines—his primary workout trainer—would be traveling along with the rest of the supporting staff, sources say.
Initially, staying back was interpreted as a suggestion rather than a mandate, sources say. Harden proceeded to participate in portions of the session with the intention of joining the the team on the flight to Milwaukee that afternoon.
After practice, Harden arrived at the fixed-base operator airport to board the team flight, but he was stopped by a security official who notified him that he was not permitted to accompany the team, sources say.
Afterwards, the team explained why they were keeping him behind, per Haynes, citing the tracking system at the team facility they use to monitor player workouts that they don’t have on the road. Harden, naturally, is apparently skeptical of that excuse, thinking the team is trying to avoid a distraction on their opening road trip where they face a pair of tough East foes in Milwaukee and Toronto. He’s probably not wrong. Even if the Sixers do want some of that tracking data, there’s also the benefit of avoiding at least some of the questions that would persist with Harden seated on the bench for games while not playing.
At some point, the Sixers and Harden will in fact reunite, and it seems this saga may drag on well into the season with the report the Clippers have “paused” their pursuit of the star as they focus on their own start to the year.