With most of the NBA taking the floor for regular season openers on either Tuesday or Wednesday, much of the focus in the league is away from the transaction cycle. However, the Philadelphia 76ers remained mired in the James Harden saga as the team waits an extra day to begin the 2023-24 campaign with a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
Approximately 24 hours before tip-off, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that Harden’s primary suitor, the Los Angeles Clippers, will be stepping back in their pursuit at this juncture.
Reporting for NBA Countdown: With the season starting, the Clippers are stepping back from James Harden trade talks pic.twitter.com/6KqCRqrJls
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 25, 2023
“I’m told that, with the start of the season now, at least for the foreseeable future, the Clippers are stepping back from these trade talks about James Harden,” Wojnarowski said. “They are essentially pausing them. They have talked with Philadelphia for months about a trade, they’ve made their best offer for Harden, and they are now gonna start their season and see what this team looks like with a healthy Kawhi Leonard, a healthy Paul George.”
“Now, the Clippers may revisit this at some point,” he continued. “But they know they’re the only bidder for James Harden, they’re the only team that’s made a serious offer, they don’t wanna bid against themselves, and again, while they may revisit this later in the season, I think the Sixers have to wonder: Have we already gotten the best offer we’re gonna get for James Harden? Especially as the games start to peel off the calendar, if you’re the Clippers, why offer more when there’s fewer and fewer games that James Harden can play for you?”
Though there is nothing official when it comes to the reported pause, but the reference to the “foreseeable future” does seemingly put the 76ers in an even more difficult position. Harden has been away from the team for different stretches in recent weeks and, even amid buzz that he is attempting to get up to speed for when the 76ers get off the road, there is considerable uncertainty about whether he’ll suit up and play at all, much less at an optimal level.
The Clippers could still rekindle things, of course, but there isn’t a clear No. 2 suitor and the heat is on all parties. Daryl Morey likely knows Philadelphia isn’t a top title contender without Harden (or at least without something in return for Harden), but he is famously stubborn. On the other side, the rest of the NBA isn’t exactly incentivized to jump in right now, and Harden isn’t the easiest player to integrate into many systems. In the end, this could be an even more prolonged stand-off.