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Report: [Harden] is ‘extremely upset’ at how Morey, Sixers handled contract negotiations; now eyeing Clippers

A new report makes it sounds as if communication between Sixers’ President Daryl Morey and James Harden broke down during negotiations. Now Harden has his sights set on joining Paul George, Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers.

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Philadelphia 76ers Introduce James Harden

A new report from Sam Amick of The Athletic offers some insight about James Harden’s major decision to opt in to the final year of his contract, and seek a trade.

We learned that Harden would not be testing the market as an unrestricted free agent Thursday evening. The lack of a major, long-term offer from Philadelphia apparently failed to materialize and the three-time scoring champ now wants a trade; he’s eyeing the Los Angeles Clippers. Philadelphia has already begun having discussions with suitors, trying to facilitate a deal.

And by the early hours of Friday morning, we had some more details about what went down.

Per Amick, via The Athletic:

“According to sources directly involved in the situation on both sides, the Los Angeles native wants to play for the Clippers and the Sixers are already in the process of discussing his desired move. Harden is, according to sources close to him, extremely upset at the way in which the Sixers handled his possible free agency and has made his dissatisfaction clear to the organization.

While it seems likely that he’ll land with the Clippers, it remains to be seen if and when his longtime basketball partner, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, will grant this unexpected wish. Sources say, however, that there is strong optimism on Harden’s side that it will indeed happen. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are said to be on board with the idea of Harden potentially joining their core, according to sources.”

Earlier, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that:

It sounds like Harden is really frustrated with the 76ers, and attempting to strong-arm his way to L.A., where he grew up. If there’s one player who knows how to navigate a trade.

Apparently Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are on board. It remains to be seen if Morey truly is, (we saw how he handled the Ben Simmons situation) although Amick writes as if James landing in L.A. is the overwhelming likelihood here.

The Clippers would love to get a deal done soon while there are some salary-matching benefits in place.

But what went wrong?

Amick continues:

“...sources involved in the matter say, it was a series of silent Sixers signals sent in recent weeks that compelled Harden to pursue that goal elsewhere yet again. And the massive divide between the information void the Sixers were offering in recent weeks and the great expectations that were surely set last summer [when Harden took a pay cut] it seems, was the final straw.”

It sounds like when the Houston Rockets decided to turn elsewhere, rather than make the type of bid for Harden that would get the deal done, Philadelphia sent “silent signals,” as Amick puts it. Did they really go sort of dark on such a key free agent? All we’ve heard for weeks now is that Philadelphia had the inside track to bring him back.

Many of us expected Morey to offer him an at-or-above market deal following his $14M pay cut last summer, making room for P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.

But there was a communication break down of some sort coming from Philadelphia’s end it appears:

“While free agency doesn’t officially begin until Friday evening, a player of Harden’s caliber could typically expect to have some clarity about the incumbent franchise’s intentions long before that time arrives. But in recent weeks and days, sources say, all indications on Harden’s side pointed to the Sixers forcing him to test the market before they would make an offer of any kind....

Harden had serious interest in a pre-Bradley Beal trade to the Phoenix Suns too....But the Sixers never engaged with the Suns regarding a possible deal....

Harden was losing leverage by the day. Sources say Morey, meanwhile, insisted that he was choosing not to discuss free agency before it was permitted by league rules, in large part, because of the price that the Sixers paid for doing so previously.”

It makes sense the Sixers would require Harden test the market before backing up the brinks. It doesn’t make sense to simply big against yourself and drop a max on his plate regardless of the next best offer. Without Houston in the picture, it seemed the Sixers had all the leverage.

But was there really no middle ground?

Did Daryl Morey, the Team President suddenly decide to become the first (really good) exec to follow anti-tampering rules to the letter of the law, even at the risk of alienating the legendary player most of his own success is inextricably tied to?

We will wait for more information to trickle out. But if this narrative is true, the implication is what? That the Sixers really just wanted to avoid getting docked a couple second-round picks or something and allowed that to dictate their negotiations? Was there any way to have kept things from getting to this point, when now it may be more difficult for them to regain leverage in trade talks?

Did they just get cold feet? Could they simply not bear the idea of losing again in the second-round with Harden, potentially on a long-term deal, flaming out, causing Joel Embiid to get a wandering eye? If so, then the who said what and when, or who went radio silent isn’t as important.

Maybe for Morey, doing what was best for the Sixers meant sacrificing some of the good-will between himself and Harden?

More from Amick:

“No matter the reasoning, Morey’s choice to keep Harden and his camp in the dark regarding the Sixers’ plans had everything to do with Harden’s choice to ask out.... A deal with the Clippers, it’s quite clear, is the only way to salvage this messy situation.”

I’m not sure if that idea that the Sixers “kept Harden in the dark” contradicts with Shams Charania’s version: “The 76ers made it clear throughout the process that the franchise did not see a long-term future with Harden, sources said.”

Could Shams mean they made it clear by going radio silent, or that they literally made things clear explicitly?

I’m keeping an open mind for now because I have a feeling we’re going to learn more and more and more about this one in the hours, days to come. Amick uses phrases like “indications on Harden’s side....” so perhaps we’ll get more from other sides.

But it’s definitely feeling at least a little needlessly messy.

Who’s ready to try talking themselves into Normal Powell?

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