The reunion of James Harden with Daryl Morey & the 76ers didn’t go as planned, and now he’s on the Clippers. Boardroom breaks down all the key events, from The Beard’s arrival in Philly to now.
(Michael Scott voice): Well, well, well, how the turn tables…
Who would’ve thought that the NBA‘s one-time biggest lovefest — between 76ers president Daryl Morey and James Harden — would disintegrate to the point that the two don’t even talk anymore? Well, perhaps some, considering Harden has pulled similar antics before, first with Morey during his Houston Rockets era and then again with the Brooklyn Nets.
But even after the first time in Houston, an admiration remained between Morey and Harden. So much so that Morey took out a full-page ad in a Houston newspaper to thank The Beard for all that he did for his career.
Fast-forward to today, and now Harden is calling Morey a liar and saying that he’ll never again play for an organization that he’s involved in. And the play worked, with news of Morey and the 76ers trading the disgruntled Harden to the Clippers overnight on Halloween for a slew of players and picks.
But how did we get to this point? Boardroom breaks down everything that’s happened with James Harden and the 76ers — from the initial trade request into Philly to finally getting his way to LA.
The James Harden-76ers Timeline
Feb. 10, 2022: 76ers acquire Harden for Ben Simmons
This was the morning of the trade deadline, and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, James Harden “[wanted a] trade to [the] Philadelphia 76ers” but would not “formally request [a] deal due to concern over public backlash.” Later that day, the two teams agreed to a trade, with Philadelphia sending Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and multiple first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap.
July 8, 2022: Harden takes $15 million pay cut
After falling to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2021-22, 76ers star Joel Embiid made comments about needing “dogs” on the roster. In an effort to appease the reigning MVP, Morey decided to go after players like PJ Tucker, who carries that sort of reputation throughout the league. However, Philly was forced to overpay to acquire the aging Tucker’s services, and in turn, Harden took a $15 million pay cut by turning down his $47.4 million player option in order to sign a more cap-friendly two-year deal (with a second-year player option).
This was thought of as a “wink-wink” type of deal in which Morey would come back around in future seasons and take care of Harden for his sacrifice. More on that later…
May 14, 2023: Sixers lose in second round…again
It wasn’t a bad season for Philadelphia. In fact, the James Harden-Joel Embiid pick-and-roll duo was one of the best offensive options in the league. But as always with this team, it was during the playoffs that questions came about.
Despite big-time performances from Harden to help steal a few games early on while Embiid was sitting due to injury, The Beard didn’t do all that much to change the narrative that he doesn’t show up in the postseason, scoring 17, 13, and nine points in Games 5, 6, and 7, respectively. In those final two games, he went 7-for-27 from the field and made just one 3-pointer.
Another year, another second-round exit, more offseason drama.
June 29, 2023: Harden opts into final year of contract, requests trade
A lot of the offseason drama kickstarted when Harden opted into the final year of his contract for $35.6 million — a lesser amount due to his pay cut last offseason — instead of testing free agency, where a team may have offered him much more. This is where things start to get dicey, as the thinking on Harden’s end was that opting in would make it easier for the team to trade him to the LA Clippers, but as things have played out, that has not been the case.
July 18, 2023: Morey wants a big return for Harden
It’s not that Morey and the 76ers haven’t been willing to oblige and trade Harden to his preferred destination. It’s that they haven’t gotten an offer that makes that move worth doing just yet.
Morey told local radio he wanted to honor Harden’s trade request, but not if it makes the team worse.
“If we don’t get either a very good player or something that we can turn into a very good player, then we’re just not going to do it,” Morey said.
He continued: “The reality is that if we do look at a trade, it’s going to be for one of two things. It’s either going to be for a player who continues to help us be right there like we were last year… Or we’re going to do it for something where we get enough draft picks and things like that in a deal, such that we can then turn those into a player who can be a running mate with Joel [Embiid], as well.”
Aug. 12, 2023: Trade talks with Clippers end … for now
According to a report from The Athletic, trade talks between the Sixers and the Clippers ended on this day. Despite that, Harden still wanted the trade and, frankly, expected it would be done by now after opting into his player option.
Aug. 14, 2023: Harden calls out Morey
After growing impatient, Harden delivered what may have been the most viral clip of the summer when he called Morey a liar.
“Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said for all to hear. “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.”
Aug. 19, 2023: NBA investigates Harden comments
When breaking it down, many believed Harden took a pay cut the previous season with the belief that Morey would make it right the next offseason. However, the 76ers were hesitant to throw big money over a long period of time at the aging guard, which eventually led to the request and the idea of a Clippers trade.
When a trade to LA became harder than initially thought, Harden grew frustrated, hence his comments. However, in attempts to decipher what he meant, many believed he was referencing that “wink-wink” deal he and Morey may have had, which would not be legal, by the way. So when the NBA came to investigate Harden’s comments, The Beard said they were referencing Morey telling him a Clippers trade would happen “quickly.”
What actually happened is up for debate, as most of this is a lot of he said, he said.
Aug. 22, 2023: Harden fined for comments
“Any player (or, for 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 shall be subject to a fine and/or a suspension. The maximum fine that may be imposed by the NBA on a player pursuant to the foregoing shall be $150,000.”
That’s Article VI, Section 18 of the NBA’s new CBA. The league’s investigation found that Harden broke this rule and fined him $100,000 for it.
Oct. 2, 2023: Media Day starts without Harden
Ahhhh, Media Day. A fresh start for most teams, with the excitement palpable. But when the Sixers held their Media Day ahead of training camp in Colorado, there was a notable face missing.
Harden would eventually fly out to Colorado Springs and participate in portions of practice that week. He was even seen running the stairs post-practice.
Oct. 13, 2023: Harden says relationship with Morey is irreparable
For the first time, we got to hear from Harden himself on how he’s feeling heading into the new campaign. On this day, Harden told the media that when he was traded to Philly initially, he wanted to “retire a Sixer.” Whether that’s true is up for debate, but Harden claimed the front office didn’t “have that in their future plans.”
When asked if his relationship with the team — specifically Morey — can be fixed, Harden said no.
“When you lose trust in someone, it’s like a marriage. You lose trust in someone, you know what I mean? It’s pretty simple.”
Oct. 17, 2023: Trade talks back on between 76ers & Clippers
Regardless of whether they stopped and started back up again or just never really ceased, reports circulated that the two teams were back in discussions. Despite participating in some of training camp, Harden missed all preseason games with the 76ers.
Oct. 18, 2023: Harden starts skipping practices
Harden didn’t show up to practice on this day and other days around it. Oct. 15 was the last day Harden was with the team at this point, and he only participated in one 5-on-5 live session since training camp began, according to The Athletic.
Oct. 25, 2023: Harden returns to 76ers practice
The day before the team is set to kick off its 2023-24 season against Giannis, Dame, and the Milwaukee Bucks, James Harden returned to practice with the 76ers. According to Wojnarowski, Harden reported to the team facility ahead of the team’s flight to Milwaukee later in the day, but reports further suggest that he will not be traveling with the team or playing in the season opener.
Oct. 21, 2023: 76ers trade Harden to Clippers
After returning to the bench for the team’s home opener, Harden finally got his wish of landing with the Clippers. Below are the reported details of the deal:
- 76ers GET: Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batum, KJ Martin, a 2028 unprotected first-round pick, two second-round picks, a 2029 pick swap, and an additional first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder
- CLIPPERS GET: Harden, PJ Tucker, and Filip Petrusev
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