The NBA is investigating the situation involving Philadelphia 76ers player James Harden publicly criticizing the team’s President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey.
The league aims to determine if Harden’s comments hint at a possible holdout in the upcoming season, which could breach the collective bargaining agreement.
Additionally, they are examining whether his remarks relate to previous contract talks with the organization, potentially raising concerns about salary cap manipulation, as reported by the ESPN.
Nonetheless, Harden has privately conveyed that his public remarks, labeling Morey as a “liar” on Monday, were simply a response to Morey’s decision to cease trade discussions. This decision led Harden to anticipate starting the season with the Sixers, according to sources.
Both the Sixers and Harden would not breach any league regulations if this information were shared with league officials.
The Sixers communicated to Harden that they had not identified a suitable trade with his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Clippers, and they expected him to join the team’s training camp in September. Sources indicate that Harden intends to adhere to this plan. Despite public speculation, Harden has not alleged any prior verbal agreement with the Sixers regarding a future contract.
During a promotional event for his Adidas basketball shoes in China on Monday, Harden publicly referred to Morey as a “liar” and stated his reluctance to be associated with an organization that Morey is part of.
Harden, who will turn 34 this month, exercised his $35.6 million option for the 2023-2024 season in June, expecting that Morey would collaborate on facilitating a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, sources indicated. Despite numerous discussions between the Sixers and Clippers, no substantial progress was achieved towards a deal, according to sources.
Morey, cautious about orchestrating a trade involving Harden that might compromise the Sixers’ competitive prospects in the upcoming season, faces the dilemma of either complying with Harden’s request and retaining MVP center Joel Embiid as part of a contending team, or risking an unsettled Harden leading to an environment that’s less focused on winning championships.
Morey, having traded for Harden on two occasions in his managerial career, including the trade with Brooklyn in February 2022, has seen their relationship deteriorate due to Harden’s dissatisfaction with his contractual status.
Harden entered into a two-year, $68.6 million contract a year ago, which included a player option. This deal allowed the team to sign two additional veteran players during free agency.
Following these signings, the NBA conducted an investigation into the Sixers, revealing premature conversations with free agent signees PJ Tucker and Danuel House. Consequently, the franchise lost two future second-round draft picks.
However, the league did not discover any evidence of discussions or agreements between the Sixers and Harden regarding a future contract based on his acceptance of a one-plus-one contract.
The Sixers have consistently refuted claims that they engaged in an illicit future agreement with Harden, nor did they make and subsequently retract such an agreement, as per sources.
Harden, a 10-time All-Star and the 2018 NBA MVP, solidified himself as an All-NBA guard during his tenure with the Houston Rockets until his trade request in 2021.
He was subsequently moved to the Nets, where the anticipated championship-caliber trio alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving didn’t materialize as expected. Harden’s desire for a trade to the 76ers in February 2022 stemmed, in part, from his strong professional and personal connection with Morey.
In response to a question from a KHOU 11 television reporter in Houston, Harden expressed that he believed his relationship with the Sixers might be “beyond repair,” but he has remained patient during the offseason, focusing on his preparation for the upcoming season.
During the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, the Sixers faced challenges, including subpar performances from Harden in Games 6 and 7.
While he scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 points in Game 4 wins, he struggled with his three-point shooting in losses during Game 2 and Game 6, and his scoring dropped significantly in Game 7.
Under Morey’s leadership, the 76ers encountered a comparable situation in recent times. Ben Simmons, a former No. 1 overall pick, demanded a trade after conflicts with former coach Doc Rivers and members of the organization.
Simmons’ disruptions during the 2021 preseason camp led to him not playing for the Sixers again. Eventually, Simmons was traded to the Nets in exchange for Harden.