James Harden is, for now, still a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. He would like to be a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, but after picking up his player option to try and push for a trade to L.A., he is at the mercy of Daryl Morey and the Sixers to send him away.
Morey seems willing to let this drag on for awhile, as he did with Ben Simmons (which resulted in Philly trading for Harden), and that brings us to the current stalemate between the various parties. The Clippers aren’t keen on sending out the assets Philly wants, which Morey outlined in a radio interview on Tuesday as being a “very good player” or draft assets they could then turn into a very good player. It seems as though Terance Mann is the sticking point in talks, as the Sixers aren’t particularly interested in a return of just Norman Powell and Marcus Morris, and the Clippers aren’t interested in bidding against themselves, as no other teams are really wanting to bid on Harden given he’s an expiring contract who doesn’t want to be anywhere other than L.A.
All of that means there’s a chance this ends up dragging on into camp, but unlike Simmons, Harden would not simply stay away from the team. No, as Jake Fischer reports, Harden would show up and get into his bag to disrupt things and make it so the Sixers feel as though they simply have to get rid of him, as he did so successfully in Houston and Brooklyn.
And while Simmons stayed away from the team as training camp opened, with player and representation fronting he would never play for the franchise again, Harden’s approach appears to diverge from there.
Harden is a future Hall of Famer, a Top 75 player of all time with scoring titles and an MVP of his own. He is also well practiced — from the end of Harden’s tenure in Houston, as well as Brooklyn — in conduct that can drive a team toward relenting and finally moving on from the talented guard. If this saga does drag out through September and until Media Day on Oct. 2, Harden is expected at this point to report to training camp, according to league sources. You can cause far more headaches for the organization you’re trying to leave by showing up, as opposed to staying home. With both the Rockets and Nets, Harden made various trips away from the team for various nightlife activities. He made Brooklyn feel it had no other option but to trade him to the Sixers before the 2022 trade deadline, or risk losing him for nothing. With Philadelphia, Harden’s side is very much of the belief joining the Clippers is not a matter of if, but when.
In Houston, Harden was looking…husky by the time the season started in 2020 as he waited on them to finally deal him to Brooklyn. This came after he was regularly flying out to Vegas during camp and making very clear that he was not going to be at his absolute best. In Brooklyn, he was likewise aloof by the end of his time there after just over a year with the Nets, sitting out with an injury that was a bit dubious (and led to some hilarity around the All-Star Draft).
I have to say, I’m a bit excited to see what he could pull off in Philadelphia, because Morey is particularly unique in that he is not one to care a whole lot about team chemistry or player feelings. Making him so uncomfortable that he trades Harden for less than he wants might take more than some trips to Vegas or putting on a few pounds. We can only hope Harden takes cues from Andrew Bynum’s practice disruption masterclass and starts hoisting shots as soon as he touches the ball.