James Harden is finally gone and no longer bringing down the 76ers team vibes. Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and co. are balling, having rattled off five wins in a row after dropping the first game of the year to Milwaukee in heartbreaking fashion. But they have a new-look offense, some real chemistry, and along with Maxey and Embiid both Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Tobias Harris have helped carry the show. Paul Reed looks primed for a leap and Nick Nurse hasn’t had much of a chance to work with Nic Batum, Marcus Morris and Robert Covington. This team doesn’t look like a true contender yet, but they are deep.
But with Harden making his Clippers debut (he was a -18 in a loss, btw), we can’t help but round up some of the takes that came out since the blockbuster trade Daryl Morey executed with Clips’ exec lead Lawrence Frank on Halloween morning.
Goodwill thinks Josh Harris forced the issue again and Morey isn’t content with the return package
First we’ll begin with Vince Goodwill, NBA writer for Yahoo Sports and host of the “Good Word” podcast on Yahoo Sports’ Ball Don’t Lie channel.
Per Goodwill, it’s actually Daryl Morey who was the “big potential loser here.” Here was some of his article and podcast that provided nuggets about team owner Josh Harris that really made the rounds on Twitter:
“Potential loser: Daryl Morey
This had better work out. The veteran reserves next to Joel Embiid, the cap space hoarded for next summer to chase a star, all of it. If not, Morey will have a lot more time to head to the theater and see musicals.... Talk to people around the league and there are plenty who think Morey’s days in Philly are numbered either way.”
At another point in a “Ball Don’t Lie” pod Goodwill added:
“From everything that I’ve been told, this was not a package trade that Daryl Morey wanted. This was a trade that was made essentially by the Philadelphia 76ers ownership. They had told Daryl Morey to get a deal done now!”
"From everything that I've been told, this was not a package trade that Daryl Morey wanted. This was a trade that was made essentially by the Philadelphia 76ers ownership. They had told Daryl Morey to get a deal done now!"— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) October 31, 2023
- @VinceGoodwill via Ball Don’t Lie Pod pic.twitter.com/J2NyW9KR7o
Now Goodwill has been a consistent Morey critic for some reason, and his recent “intel” about the inner workings of the 76ers has been thoroughly debunked as recently as August. Remember Goodwill reported that “many around the NBA believe Joel Embiid will ask out sooner rather than later — and that a full rebuild is what Morey is covertly hoping for....”
So I’m taking that part with at least a salt grain or three.
Morey himself indirectly shot down the Goodwill report idea that he was discontent with the deal but Harris pushed it through to the finish. “It was a very standard trade, I didn’t quite follow that reporting,” Morey said once the trade was official.
On the other hand, Yaron Weitzman once reported that Josh Harris was the one on the actual phone with Minnesota as the the Jimmy Butler blockbuster went down and that went astoundingly well so (not being sarcastic, they landed a top-10 player in Butler for relative peanuts.... just saying), ya never know with this upper management and their “collaborative” process.
Want my two cents? I think Morey regrets allowing Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta pressuring him into making the Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook deal with OKC so much that he’d now feel compelled to sternly object if his boss was pressuring him into a deal he hated.
For what it’s worth, Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey sounds like he thinks Harris may have played a big hand in the deal based on Goodwill’s reporting.
Asked by HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto on a recent podcast “how much did ownership play into the Harden trade?”
Here was Pompey’s reply:
“Pompey: “To me, when you say that and [Goodwill] comes out with that report, it makes it sound like Josh (Harris) did have a lot to do with it, or maybe I shouldn’t say a lot, but something to do with it.”
Scotto: “They didn’t get Mann, but they got KJ Martin, who’s a player I’ve heard Philadelphia is intrigued with, and they’re going to have the necessary cap space to re-sign him despite him becoming an unrestricted free agent in July. I think that’s something to keep an eye on.”
But this part about possible names the Sixers might look at was even more intriguing:
Scotto: ....Some potential targets to keep an eye on for Philadelphia include Zach LaVine, who can spread the floor and OG Anunoby, who is loved by coach Nick Nurse, which I think is important. He offers two-way versatility on both sides of the ball, and the 76ers will have the necessary cap space to re-sign him this summer. Other names Philadelphia will monitor include Cavaliers All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell and Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic, I’m told.”
We’ve already heard about OG and LaVine, but Mitchell is a new one. I know the Knicks probably still have their eye on him after letting that deal slip away, haggling over RJ Barrett’s price.
But could LaVine be the most likely to become available?
Lowe and Marks
But let’s change gears and hop to The Lowe Post Podcast, where ESPN’s Zach Lowe hosted Bobby Marks to break down the Sixers-Clippers trade.
Lowe: “the Sixers are going to be looking for another player. Now will that happen before the trade deadline? I don’t know. I couldn’t, they’re gonna definitely look.... it was never about Terance Mann. The Sixers only knew that the Clippers offered Terance Mann for Jrue Holiday to Portland and they thought well, if you’re offering him for Jrue, why aren’t you offering him for James?”
Marks: “....I would say if I’m gonna give a winner or loser— I’m not gonna give a loser— but I’ll just say winner just because Philadelphia got rid of the — Harden distraction. That’s the reality of it.”
At another point Lowe gave his perspective on both ends of the deal:
Lowe: “Here’s where I come down [for L.A.]: I kept the 2030 pick, I kept Mann, I gave up a pick swap in 2027 to the Thunder, I can live with that. ... they’ve never had a passer like this playing with [Kawhi Leonard and Paul George], not even close, James Harden is still one of the five best passers in the NBA....I think the swing is worth it to me....
And on the Sixers end, Lowe continued:
...[The Sixers now, after the trade] that’s a good team. It’s not good enough to beat Boston. It’s probably not good enough to beat Milwaukee but Milwaukee has not looked that great. Dame and Giannis are not running as much two-man game as we all thought.... It’s been a little clunkier than I thought.... this [Sixers] team’s really good. I don’t think it’s that good. Do you disagree? Do you think they can win the East as is....?
Marks: “Not as is. Not as is....”
But again, the Sixers do have picks to work with, so many fans will hope they don’t remain “as is” through the trade deadline.
FoxSports, SI and more
Continuing to round up reactions, FoxSports dropped some grades for each team.
- Rich Bucher gave each team a C+.
- Yaron Weitzman gave each team a B+.
- And Melissa Rohlin gave L.A. an A-, and Philadelphia a B+.
- Over at Sports Illustrated, Rohan Nadkarni gave the Clips a B+ and the Sixers just a B.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne dropped this on us:
“According to league sources, Harden and his camp became convinced Morey intended to offer him only a two-year deal, with a team option on the second season, if he declined his $35.6 million player option and became a free agent at the end of June — essentially turning Harden into a year-to-year player.
The Sixers insisted to him that they would make him a strong offer as soon as they were allowed to, and to not mistake their caution over tampering rules for lack of interest.”
That actually meshes with what Scotto speculated, that the Sixers may have considered offering Harden a two-year deal with a team option; and it makes the popular theory that Harden “acted rashly” by opting in look a little less convincing. Maybe you would have opted in also if the Sixers went dark on you in the waning hours before your decision deadline.
Plenty of tea or slop (or whatever your favorite word for NBA gossip) regarding this trade. But the Sixers now have much more ammo to work with, and we don’t have to play “will Harden play this halfheartedly all year, or hold out then walk for nothing” game.