Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne4 minutes to read
The NBA has launched an investigation into the surrounding circumstancesSources tell ESPN that the Philadelphia 76ers star is James Harden’s public rebuke to the franchise’s head of basketball operations, Daryl Morey.
It is believed the league office is seeking to understand whether Harden was foreshadowing the 2023-24 postponement in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement or was referring to previous contract discussions with the organization that might constitute an overrun of the salary cap, the sources said.
However, Harden privately noted that his public comments calling Morey “false” on Monday morning were simply a response to Morey ending trade discussions with Harden expected to start the season with the Sixers, sources said.
Neither the Sixers nor Harden will violate any league guidelines if reported to league officials.
Philadelphia has reported Harden that they haven’t found a suitable deal with his favorite destination, the Los Angeles Clippers, and that they expect him to report to the team’s training camp in September — something sources say Harden plans to do. Despite the public speculation, Harden made no allegations of a previous handshake agreement with the Sixers over a future contract.
At a publicity stop for his Adidas basketball shoe range Monday morning in China, Harden called Morey a “liar” and said he would “never be part of an organization he’s part of”.
Sources said Harden, who turns 34 this month, exercised his $35.6 million option for the 2023-24 season in June with the expectation that Morey would work with him in finding a deal with the Clippers. Sources said the Sixers and Clippers have engaged in numerous talks but have not gained traction in any deal.
Morey, who warns of making a deal involving Harden that reduces Philadelphia’s chances of competing next season, faces the dilemma of complying with Harden’s request and keeping the MVP position in Joel Embiid as part of the opposing team next season. Morey risks an unhappy Harden creating something less than a heroic-driven environment.
Morey traded Harden twice in his managerial career — including a February 2022 deal with Brooklyn — but that relationship fell apart due to Harden’s dissatisfaction with his contract situation.
Harden signed a two-year, $68.6 million deal a year earlier that included a player option—a deal that allowed the franchise to sign additional veteran contributors in free agency.
After those deals, the NBA investigated the Sixers and revealed premature talks with free agent signed PJ Tucker and Danuel House — which stripped the franchise of two future second-round picks. The league found no evidence of Philadelphia and Harden discussing or agreeing to a future contract based on his agreement to a one-plus-one contract.
The Sixers have continued to reject the suggestion that the organization agreed to an illegal future deal with Harden, or agreed to one and then backed out, sources said.
Harden — a 10-time All-Star and 2018 NBA MVP — developed into an All-NBA guard with the Houston Rockets until asking for a trade in 2021. The Rockets moved him to the Nets, where championship-level prospects including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving never really developed. . Harden pushed for a deal with the 76ers in February 2022—due in part to his strong professional and personal relationships with Morey. “I think so,” Harden responded to a KHOU 11 television reporter in Houston Thursday when asked if his relationship with the Sixers was “irreparable.”
Harden said, “I’ve been patient all summer. For me, it’s just about what I can control and prepare for this season.”
Philadelphia lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Boston Celtics, including performances of Game 6 and 7 by Harden. He scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 in Game 4, both Sixers victories, but missed all of his 3-point attempts in Game 2 and Game 6. Harden scored nine points in Game 7, including going scoreless in the half the second.
Under Morey, the 76ers have dealt with a similar situation in recent years. Former No. 1 seed Ben Simmons demanded a trade after falling out with former coach Doc Rivers and members of the organization. Simmons created a level of upset in the 2021 preseason camp and never played for Philadelphia again. Ultimately, Simmons was traded to the Nets for Harden.
“Food ninja. Friendly thinker. Explorer. Entrepreneur. Zombie junkie.