Well, this took a turn. James Harden is opting in to his contract and the team will explore trades for the former league MVP.
Shams Charnia of The Athletic and Stadium broke the bombshell news story. And in his follow up report Shams added:
“James Harden is opting into his $35.6 million deal for next season in order for the 10-time NBA All-Star and the 76ers to work together on a trade out of Philadelphia, league sources told The Athletic.
The Clippers and potentially one more team are expected to emerge as interested franchises in trade talks with the 76ers, league sources say.
The 76ers made it clear throughout the process that the franchise did not see a long-term future with Harden, sources said.”
Shams would add Miami to the mix as well noting the trade process is already underway from Philadelphia’s end.
“The Clippers and Heat are expected to emerge in this process for (James) Harden, I’m told. Teams across the league understand a player like Harden will likely reach a preferred destination…”— The Rally (@TheRally) June 29, 2023
NBA Insider @ShamsCharania updates us on James Harden. pic.twitter.com/HpxYR6aRMW
Harden turned down an extension worth more than $200M from the Brooklyn Nets back in the summer of 2021. Few doubted at the time that the three-time scoring champ would command an even bigger max offer the following summer. But he suffered another hamstring flare up and requested a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.
After yet another hamstring issue plagued him during the 2022 NBA Playoffs in a series vs. the Miami Heat, no max deal was agreed upon; instead, Harden took a one-year deal including a near $14M pay cut to help Daryl Morey and Elton Brand make room to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. in free agency.
Despite rumors all this past season long that Harden might have his sights set on returning to Houston, many believed that if he did opt to stay in Philly, he would make up some of those funds he left on the table and then some.
But he came up short in the playoffs once again and Charania’s report makes it sound as if the Sixers weren’t interested in meeting Harden’s desired price point.
We can only wonder how Joel Embiid feels about it all. After the team was eliminated he said “me and James can’t win alone.” But that was before Ramona Shelburne joined ESPN’s “NBA Today” a few weeks ago explaining:
"...Joel, he looks at the... Nuggets + says “that might be kind of fun to play like that. That might be kind of fun to get people who pass the ball around, shoot, cut, + have this ball movement ...+ James Harden doesn’t have to dribble for 20 seconds...”— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) June 29, 2023
-R. Shelburne weeks ago
Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports tweeted about a potential return for The Beard, now on an expiring $35.6M deal.
The Clippers and Sixers have been in contact this week, league sources told @YahooSports, where Los Angeles — among wide-ranging talks on Marcus Morris and Norman Powell — have approached Philadelphia on separate ideas of trading for James Harden and Tobias Harris. https://t.co/D0biHPhMul— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 29, 2023
Yeesh, trading with the Clippers but not landing Paul George?
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added the New York Knicks to our list of teams potentially interested.
The Clippers and Knicks are expected to be among the teams that'll engage with the Sixers on a potential James Harden trade, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/NQ5Y6xkvAx— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2023
But SNY’s Ian Begley notes that interest on the Knicks side is “far from uniform” within New York President Leon Rose’s front office.
Woj did report that it’s “expected that Harden has played his last game for Philadelphia,” but a Tweet from NBCS-Philadelphia gives the sense maybe that last part isn’t quite set in stone?
I’m told Sixers will consider trade options involving James Harden but any trade would have to be in their best interest— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) June 29, 2023
I’m told James opted in to preserve his ability to contend for a title with Sixers or another team
Maybe he wants to go home to LA and play for the Clippers? pic.twitter.com/Ff6WAG2Evr
Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype notes there may be an incentive to strike a deal soon, in terms of salary matching:
Salary matching needed for James Harden and his trade bonus:— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) June 29, 2023
By June 30: $28.5M
2023-24 for teams below the $182.8M first apron: $32.6M
2023-24 for teams above the $182.8M first apron: $37.3M
You can see why teams like the Clippers would be motivated to get a deal done now.
But Woj hopped on ESPN and said he’s not sure how quickly this is going to go.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst jumped on “PTI” and the NBA Insider said he “would not be surprised if we see Kyrie [Irving] wanting to investigate what’s going on in Philadelphia if Harden moves out if there’s a window for him to come in. The other name here [for the Sixers] is Dame Lillard.”
Windy outlines a scenario where the Sixers could look to accumulate a few assets in a Harden deal and reroute them to a rebuilding team like the Portland Trailblazers, should they ever actually shop Damian Lillard.
“I would not be surprised if we see Kyrie wanting to investigate what’s going on in PhilAdelphia if Harden moves out if there’s a window for him to come in. The other name here [for Sixers] is Dame Lillard.”@WindhorstESPN— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) June 29, 2023
I wonder if that’s also the rout they’d look to take in a deal with the Knicks. New York has more picks (to be shipped to a third team) than players the Sixers might be really intrigued by.
Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen explains that Harden may have thought the situation in Philly was untenable.
Failed to mention that Harden apparently decided the situation in Philly (as with Houston and Brooklyn) was crazy and could not be fixed. Either way, he's on move again, opting into contract to explore trade scenarios out of Philadelphia https://t.co/w2rYBobMwc via @houstonchron— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) June 29, 2023
We’ll stay on top of this one for you. But for now, it sounds like the Clippers are the team with the most interest. But would that be to help them form a big three or break up their Kawhi Leonard-Paul George big two?
The Clippers are the “most prominent” team in trade talks for James Harden, per @wojespn:— Evan Sidery (@esidery) June 29, 2023
- Trade discussions have already begun between the Sixers and other teams.
- Clippers are not interested in trading any of their “good young players” for Harden.
- Philadelphia wants real… pic.twitter.com/hNkYG2QboK