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Sixers rumor roundup: Harden away for road trip? Clippers hitting ‘pause’ on talks & more

James Harden has returned to the team facility to ramp up for the season, although he may not join the team for their entire opening road trip. What might it mean for a potential Sixers-Clippers blockbuster?

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Philadelphia 76ers Introduce James Harden

James Harden still wants a trade and some days it feels like the Sixers and Clippers might just be getting closer to striking a deal. Other days, it seems like one is just never going to happen.

Last week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Sixers and Clippers have spoken “in recent days” but that the teams still had a “sizable gap” between them in terms of the price to acquire the former league MVP.

That update was certainly disheartening for fans who are still hoping for a Harden deal to finally come to fruition. And for those of you perhaps clinging to the hope Harden just gets over his beef with Daryl Morey and perhaps balls out enough to turn the Sixers into title contenders, well, maybe it’s not so bad?

We’ve also seen reports, like this one from The Athletic’s Sam Amick, stating that:

“The Clippers offered the Sixers an unprotected first-round pick, a pick swap and salaries for Harden in July, league sources say, but Philadelphia has set a much higher threshold.”

I argued that the Clippers should just face their lives here and pony up for the Beard.

They’re probably only short one more first-rounder or backup wing guard from meeting Morey’s (my guess would be reasonable) asking price. This isn’t like the “give us Wiggins and twelve picks” days fans joke about when Morey is seeking a big trade.

The Clippers already went all in to assemble Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and they’ve thus far come up well short of their ultimate goals, having won a mere three playoff series in four seasons. What if they’d only had Ty Lue instead of Doc Rivers at the helm in the bubble?

But c’mon, they (should) know they’re simply not good enough to win big as currently constructed. And it seems like their front office is getting cold feet essentially exchanging a 27-year old, career 8-points-per-game bench guard in Terance Mann (or a second first-round pick that they might be able to add protections to anyway) for Harden?

Sure, he’s not the same player he once was in Houston but he was one phone call away from making his 11th All-Star team, and the reigning assist king represents a pretty massive upgrade in the playmaking and creation departments over names like Russell Westbrook.

Can you imagine if two picks, a swap and a bunch of bad-to-average expiring contracts (all while keeping Mann) could get this done, and the Clippers simply balked? Their two stars are both on expiring contracts. They could soon be facing a lengthy rebuild with only a couple of future assets (that may not even have much value, league-wide) to work with. That would be simply brutal for L.A.’s “other team” after landing so much talent back in 2019.

If I were PG (33) or Kawhi (32) I’d weigh that type of front-office decision — potentially valuing the distant future over my current prime — heavily while thinking about my next contract or team. Bro, you really think those picks are worth missing out on the chance to maybe buy low on James Harden?

Now, if you asked Daryl Morey, he might simply argue the Clippers never wanted Harden at all based on reported offers.

Per a follow-up piece from Amick that was published last week:

“Despite the Sixers indicating that they would accept an offer of a Clippers’ unprotected first-round pick, first-round pick swap, players to match the salaries and Mann, two people involved in the negotiations say Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank reiterated the team’s stance that Mann would not be part of their offer. Morey, those people say, expressed his disbelief and accused the Clippers of being “unserious” about getting a deal done. He even quipped that they should just trade Clippers star Paul George for Harden if they were so determined to keep all of their lesser assets — a request that was immediately denied.”

But if the Clippers were recently offering a first-round pick and a swap, surely they’ll eventually be tempted to offer either Mann or that darn second first-round pick at some point in time? If the ‘deal zone’ is the 10-yard line, might the Sixers and Clippers have at least made it near the 30? Are the Clippers really pulling out or is it a negotiating ploy? That may simply depend on how they begin the season.

Zach Lowe of ESPN provided more insight. The Senior Writer addressed Harden’s latest on a recent Lowe Post Pod, the transcript courtesy of RealGM:

“The Clippers want Harden,” said Zach Lowe. “It’s a real thing. They want Harden. They want him more than they want Malcolm Brogdon. Pretty confident in that. And the fact that they’re this interested in Harden, interested enough to throw out an unprotected pick. Or whatever it is. Whatever offer they’ve thrown out. I think is a vote of slight anxiety at the very least that their team as presently constructed is simply not good enough to win the title. Which is kind of depressing because, in a way, trading everything for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was supposed to inoculate you from having to trade almost everything again for another player while Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were still on your team. Not a minor trade. That was in play. Not a small upgrade here or there. But here’s everything we have left, go get us something else. I think they hoped that this was the team. This was the team that would get over the hump.”

It’s intriguing that he mentioned L.A. preferring Harden to Malcolm Brogdon (really, why wouldn’t they?), a player that many believe is available for trade after landing in Portland from Boston. That seems to imply maybe the Clippers actually are/were more interested than their public negotiating stance would have implied.

Woj said they were still so far apart back on Oct. 18. Did they get any closer before the Clips latest update about “pausing” talks?

Oh, right, and then there was this:

So we’ve got an apparent “ramp up” coming, to call back the old Ben Simmons not playing for the Brooklyn Nets in his first half-season there.

“Well, I would say that decision comes down to [Vice President of Athlete Care] Simon [Rice] and his team, our medical people,” 76ers’ head coach Nick Nurse explained at practice Wednesday. “It’s part of the reason [Harden] will be here. We’ve got all the finest technology to figure out exactly where he’s at and where he can get to and all those kind of things.”

So feel free to speculate. Is this the type of physical training any player would need in order to suit up, or is this something else? Is it possible a deal could be near (or at least the Sixers hope one is near) and they just don’t want to risk an injury?

The reports make it sound as if the Sixers really do expect Harden to ball for them in the near future. But if that happens what might that look like? Is it even worth it if there’s a potential trade somewhere on the horizon? It’s anyone’s guess.

Hopefully, we’re at least nearing the deal zone, despite the latest update.

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