James Harden is no stranger to dramatic moves, but his attempted exit from the Philadelphia 76ers might be his most controversial trade saga yet as it remains a key storyline of the NBA offseason. Tensions between Harden and the team appeared to reach a boiling point in August, when the 10-time NBA All-Star pointedly called Sixers general manager Daryl Morey a “liar” during a speech at a marketing event in China.
The NBA then launched an investigation into Harden’s comments — which it said referred to Morey saying Harden would be traded “quickly” — and ultimately fined the player $100,000 for his public trade demands . In turn, the National Basketball Players Association said it would file a grievance regarding this discipline.
This is the latest on the situation between Harden and the 76ers as a tricky training camp looms in early October. But what led to the breakdown in relations between Philadelphia and its star guard? Here is a timeline of events.
July 8, 2022: Harden accepts $15 million pay cut
Following the Sixers’ 2021-22 campaign — which saw Harden join Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets — Harden takes a $15 million pay cut for the season 2022-23 and signs with the team to an agreement. new two-year deal that includes a player option in year two.
Harden waived his $47.4 million player option the previous week in order to return to the Sixers on a contract that would give the team the financial flexibility to bolster its roster. (The franchise was focused on a championship run in 2023 after falling in the 2022 Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat.) Harden’s close relationship with Morey helped seal this deal, and many assumed the Sixers would reward Harden with a nice contract the next. out of season.
June 29, 2023: Harden opts for 2023 to work for trade
Fast forward a year and the relationship is deteriorating. Harden opts out of his $35.6 million contract for the 2023-24 season to work with the 76ers on a trade to Philadelphia, Athleticism reported. The organization is discussing deals for Harden, with the LA Clippers being his preferred destination. The Sixers made it clear throughout the process that the franchise did not see a long-term future with the guard, league sources said.
Athleticism also reported that Harden was extremely upset with how the Sixers handled his potential free agency and made his displeasure clear to the organization.
Why James Harden’s reunion with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia went south
July 18, 2023: Sixers need a good return for Harden, says Morey
Morey says in a local radio interview that he’s trying to honor Harden’s trade request, but adds, “If we don’t get a really good player or something that we can turn into a really good player , then we just won’t be I’m going to do it.
“The reality is if we consider a transaction, it will be for one of two things,” Morey says. “Either it’s going to be a player that continues to help us be where we were last year, up 3-2 against one of the best teams in the East, the Celtics. Obviously we didn’t make it, but James was a big part of why we got to 3-2. Or we’ll do it for something where we get enough draft picks and things like that in a deal, so that we can then turn them into a player that can also be a running mate with Joel (Embiid).
When discussing Harden’s reasoning for wanting to opt out, Morey said Harden wanted a different contract situation.
“If we can do something that’s a win-win and helps the Sixers, then we’ll look at it,” Morey said. “If we can’t, we won’t.”
August 12, 2023: 76ers end Harden trade talks
The Sixers decide to end trade talks on Harden, anticipating he will attend their upcoming training camp. However, a source close to Harden reiterates that the former MVP no longer wants to play for Philadelphia and has no plans to attend camp. Harden’s camp expressed the belief that there would be significant developments regarding a trade before then.
August 14, 2023: Harden calls Morey a ‘liar’
Days after Philadelphia ended trade talks, Harden blasted Morey while speaking at an event in China as part of a marketing tour for Adidas.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he is a part of,” Harden told the crowd, in front of numerous cameras. “Let me say it again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of any organization that he is a part of.”
Harden doubled down on his sentiment a few days later in an interview with KHOU 11 News Houstontelling the outlet that he believes his relationship with Morey and the 76ers “is beyond repair.”
August 19, 2023: NBA launches investigation into Harden’s comments about Morey
NBA launches investigation into Harden’s comments about Morey. Harden told league investigators he was referring to Morey telling Harden he would trade him “quickly” after signing for $35.6 million for the 2023-24 season.
76ers owner Josh Harris said he is working to convince Harden to stay in Philadelphia, but is willing to “deal with what he wants” if he and the team fail to convince Harden to rescind his trade request to the Clippers.
“Listen, we work hard,” Harris said before the preseason game between the Washington Commanders and the Baltimore Ravens on August 21. “I respect James. I want, obviously, to adapt to what he wants. At the same time, I have to think about a championship contending team, what we can get back. I’d love to convince him to stay. I understand that’s not what he wants to do at the moment.
“I’m going to continue to work to resolve this in a way that everyone can live with and that is positive for everyone, whatever that resolution is. … I respect him as a basketball player and as a person. It’s back to, right, you’re dealing with people, right? And you have to be there. We’ll see where this goes.
August 22, 2023: NBA fines Harden for trade demands
The NBA fines Harden $100,000 for his public trade demands after the league’s investigation confirmed that Harden’s comments on August 14 and 17 referred to his belief that the 76ers would not trade him not.
According to Article VI, Section 18 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Harden violated the rules. The league was only able to prove this because of his admission during the investigation.
“Any player (or, for greater clarity, any player representative or person acting with authority on behalf of a player) who publicly expresses a desire to be traded to another team will be subject to a fine and/or ‘a suspension. The maximum fine that the NBA may impose on a player under the foregoing will be $150,000.
The National Basketball Players Association said later in the day that it intends to file a grievance regarding NBA discipline and intends to have the matter heard by its arbitrator: “We respectfully disagree With the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, we believe it does not violate the rule against public trade requests.
Anthony Davis was fined $50,000 in 2019 when his agent, Rich Paul, publicly discussed his trade request to New Orleans, and Dewayne Dedmon was fined $50,000 for discussing publicly of its commercial request in Sacramento, serving as more recent examples of the rule.
(Top photo of James Harden: Eric Hartline / USA Today)