A bombshell was dropped on the NBA world one day prior to the start of free agency. According to multiple reports, James Harden informed the Philadelphia 76ers that he would pick up the player option in his contract for next season, only it would come under the condition that he would like a trade. While there have been a few teams kicked around as potential landing spots for Harden, the Sixers have made pretty clear that they won’t rush into making a move.
The team is willing to drag this out and bring Harden back this year, with Joel Embiid going as far as saying his preference is for Harden to change his mind. It’s an understandable stance for Embiid to have — he’s close with Harden and it stands to reason Philly won’t be able to turn him into another All-Star caliber guard — and there’s even been some optimism that Harden could change his mind. But unfortunately for the team, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports that Harden took some time to think about things and still wants out.
“James Harden has spoken to Daryl Morey since the first trade request, and I think there was some cooling off period. ‘OK, let’s let this lie and see how things play out,’” Shelburne said. “And they’ve spoken again, and he still reiterated he wants to be traded. Now, this isn’t a demand, it’s a request. And I think the Sixers have said, ‘OK, we will try to trade you, but there is no hurry to do this.
“I think the Sixers understand here that they have the leverage here,” Shelburne continued. “[Harden] picked up his option, this is an opt-in to a contract and he’s going to be a free agent after this season. And so, at some point, he needs to play, whether that’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere.”
Shelburne did note that there’s a belief that Harden’s relationship with his teammates could potentially lead to him coming around on the idea of playing in Philly next season, although he’s not at that point yet.