Two days after it was reported that the Philadelphia 76ers ended trade talks involving James Harden, the 10-time All-Star guard ripped 76ers president Daryl Morey.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said during an Adidas media event in China. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”
On Saturday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the 76ers planned to bring Harden back to training camp and for the start of the season, setting up an uncomfortable situation with the unhappy star.
The Sixers had periodic offseason conversations with the LA Clippers — Harden’s desired destination — but no traction on a deal materialized, sources said.
The Sixers agreed to search out a trade upon Harden’s request after he agreed to pick up his $35.6 million player option in June, but the Sixers’ asking price was steep, and no teams, including the Clippers, were willing or able to meet it, sources said.
Harden’s unhappiness with Morey stems over the lack of a long-term maximum-level contract offer, sources said, and the team risks the possibility of Harden’s arrival at training camp bringing anything but a championship mindset. Morey was Houston’s longtime GM during Harden’s eight-plus seasons with the Rockets.
Philadelphia believes it will be a championship contender with Harden’s return alongside MVP center Joel Embiid, and the team is determined to find a way to make it work with Harden this season, sources said.
Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, now has tried to force his way off his third team in three years. Harden blossomed into a star with the Rockets — when Morey ran the team — until he wanted a trade to Brooklyn. The Rockets eventually agreed and shipped him to the Nets. When a Big Three championship run with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving never developed, Harden wanted a trade to the 76ers — in large part, because of his strong professional and personal ties with Morey.
Harden did lead the league in assists this season, but one of the league’s great isolation scorers took a back seat to Embiid. It appears playing as the second option behind Embiid and chasing a championship in Philly is no longer seriously on the table.
The 76ers flamed out in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs — and now seem stuck in the middle of the East under new coach Nick Nurse.
Harden scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 in Game 4 victories against the Celtics. Harden was 0-for-6 on 3s in Game 2 and Game 6 losses. He scored only nine points in Game 7, and he went scoreless in the second half.
The 76ers have been down this road before when former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons demanded a trade after his relationship soured with former coach Doc Rivers and others in the organization. Simmons caused a disruption in training camp in 2021, never played for the Sixers that season and was eventually traded — for Harden.