James Harden publicly called Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey “a liar” at a recent event in China, and now, we at least have some idea about why. As the NBA continues its probe into the drama in Philadelphia, Shams Charania is reporting that Harden told the league that his comments referred to his trade request earlier this offseason.
Harden said that Morey promised to trade him quickly following his decision to pick up his $35.6 million player option for next season, according to Charania.
Instead, the 76ers have now ceased trade discussions involving Harden and plan to keep him into the season. Morey has said on the record that he would only trade Harden for “either a very good player or something that we can turn into a very good player.” No such offer is known to have materialized, and discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers, Harden’s preferred destination, have seemingly gone nowhere.
Harden will turn 34 this offseason, and has now requested three trades since the 2020 offseason. He is coming off of yet another playoff disappointment and has never been known for his conditioning or defense. His trade value, for now, appears limited.
Notably, however, the NBA’s investigation was focused on whether or not the Harden situation involved any salary cap circumvention. Last offseason, Harden took a one-year deal with that $35.6 million player option in an effort to give the 76ers more flexibility to improve the roster around him. Rumors have suggested that the arrangement would eventually be followed up by a long-term contract this offseason, though there has been no credible reporting suggesting that Philadelphia made an illegal agreement with Harden about a future contract.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne have reported that Harden plans to report to Philadelphia’s training camp in September. Of course, Harden has never actually held out while seeking a trade. He has, however, displayed a history of playing poor basketball while awaiting a deal. He arrived at training camp for the 2020-21 season with the Houston Rockets late and visibly out of shape. In his final game with the Brooklyn Nets, he scored just four points in a loss to the Sacramento Kings.
Harden’s future in Philadelphia remains murky, but Morey’s history suggests that he will not make a poor deal just to get rid of Harden. He kept the disgruntled Ben Simmons for most of the 2021-22 season as he awaited a suitable trade. He eventually found one with Brooklyn that landed him Harden. That deal certainly didn’t come together quickly. Harden claims Morey promised him that this one would, but for now, it appears to be on hold until something changes.