Almost as quickly as it began, the James Harden era is over in Philadelphia.
The Sixers have traded the 10-time All-Star guard to the Los Angeles Clippers, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrusev will also be sent to L.A. The Sixers will receive two first-round picks (2026, 2028), Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, KJ Martin, two second-rounders and a pick swap. Danny Green was also waived to create a roster spot.
The Sixers are acquiring Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, KJ Martin, multiple draft picks and a pick swap for James Harden, PJ Tucker and Filip Petrusev, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/fSOkgO5xd3— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 31, 2023
Further trade details: The Clippers are sending a 2027 first-round pick swap to Oklahoma City, clearing way for OKC to move a protected 2026 first-round pick to the 76ers, sources said. The Clippers are sending a 2024 and a 2029 second-round pick to the Sixers in the deal too,… https://t.co/IlIGoEa9Fm— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 31, 2023
Harden’s tenure with the Sixers was turbulent to say the least. Ironically, the trade that brought The Beard to Philly ended the Ben Simmons’ trade demand and holdout, with the Brooklyn Nets moving Harden a little over a year after they acquired him from the Houston Rockets.
The honeymoon phase with Harden was full of jubilation. Harden and Joel Embiid formed a lethal pick-and-roll combination. After questions surrounded how Tyrese Maxey would adjust to Harden’s presence, the young guard flourished playing alongside the veteran playmaker. After some early struggles, even Tobias Harris seemed to find an ideal role as a 3-and-D wing to complement Harden.
The honeymoon phase ended quickly as Harden and the Sixers fizzled in six games against the Miami Heat in the second round. After many believed Harden would pick up his player option for the 2022-23 season, he did not, making him a free agent. He took his now-infamous pay cut — the 1+1 deal — to accommodate the signings of his pals P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, Jr.
The season was mostly a success, as Embiid took home his first MVP award thanks in part to Harden leading the league in assists. Embiid and Harden were the first teammates since 1981-82 to lead the league in points and assists per game, respectively. After dispatching of the Nets in a sweep, the rival Boston Celtics loomed. Another Embiid postseason injury threatened to derail another playoff run.
But Harden was electric in Game 1, dropping 45 points and hitting a game-winning three to give the Sixers a stunning victory in Boston. Harden was good for a 42-point performance in a Game 4 win and helped the Sixers take a 3-2 series lead back to Philadelphia. After holding a late lead in Game 6, the offense floundered down the stretch before dropping a potential closeout game.
We all know what happened in Game 7.
This time around, Harden was expected to not pick up his player option and elect free agency — with his former team in Houston looming as a reported suitor. After the market dried up, Harden instead decided to opt into his deal, but also demanded a trade after the Sixers did not communicate with him leading up to free agency. The Sixers claim they were attempting to avoid tampering charges after suffering steep penalties last offseason. Harden seemingly did not buy that reasoning.
Then the ugliness ensued, peaking when Harden called Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey a “liar.”
Though he skipped media day, Harden did show up for the team’s training camp in Colorado (a day late) and practiced with the team without incident. The situation continued to be drama-free until Harden was away from the team for 10 days for “personal reasons.”
The Clippers were Harden’s preferred destination — and seemingly only suitor — all along. After much back and forth between the two teams, Morey and L.A. president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank made it happen.
All of that leads to this trade where the Sixers get a haul for a player everyone was so excited to acquire not that long ago.
Even a “mutual lovefest” has an expiration date.