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James Harden: ‘I’ve learned it’s a business’

In the midst of a trade request, James Harden sat down for an interview with USA Today Sports to discuss a wide range of league topics.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden has reportedly requested a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers and has his sights set on heading to Los Angeles to join the Clippers. Of course, all of this has been said through back channels, i.e. agents, league reporters, etc. We haven’t heard from Harden himself on the matter. Now, while he doesn’t address his own situation directly, James did sit down for an interview with Mackenzie Salmon for USA Today Sports:

In the interview, Harden provides his thoughts on the new in-season tournament, the growth of the NBA across the David Stern and Adam Silver commissioner eras, the future of soccer in America, and more.

He also responded to some questions that may be of more specific interest to Sixers fans. Harden was asked by Salmon about the current state of player empowerment and players dictating where they want to play, with Damian Lillard specifically cited as an example (so keep in mind he’s framing it through Lillard in his answer). Harden’s response:

“I see both sides of it. I see both sides because I went through it. The organization wanna do what’s best for them. They don’t want to just give a player that basically is one of the best players that they’ve ever had in their organization away for nothing. So I get the organization’s side. And then I get the player’s side as far as wanting to play and wanting to be somewhere. Whether it’s because it’s the right situation for you, for your family, or yourself, or whatever that person is going through. So I see both sides. So if they can meet in the middle and kind of come to an agreement and figure it out, then that’s like the best scenario. I wouldn’t want an organization to send someone somewhere where they wouldn’t [want to] be. Because you’ve built a real relationship with that person. That person has done so many great things for your organization, your franchise. But then, you don’t want to give that player away for nothing. So I get both sides. Just find a balance, meet in the middle, and hopefully both sides can come to an agreement.”

Obviously, it’s impossible to not hear this and think of Harden’s current trade request from the Sixers. He comes across as very accommodating about these types of situations in his response, but if he has a Clippers or nothing mentality at the moment, how is Philadelphia supposed to meet him in the middle? At the very least, maybe Harden seeing both sides of things means he will let things play out without making too much of a stink, letting Daryl Morey play the long game and re-establish a bit of leverage with the Clippers or whoever else.

In probably the most humorous exchange of the interview, Harden was asked for his thoughts on the new flopping rule. If things don’t play out like James wants and actually does end up remaining a Sixer next year, fans are going to want to know if he’ll be adjusting his approach at all.

“Are you callin’ me a flopper?...They put the rule in a few years ago and then they kind of just went away from it. So honestly, it doesn’t affect me. I’m sure it’s gonna happen for everyone in the league because it’s a part of the game. But if it happens, it happens. You shoot a free throw and move on. They’re just trying to put more authenticity into the game and I’m here for it.”

Finally, at the start of the interview, Harden is asked what he has learned entering his 15th season in the NBA, which could be viewed as the ethos of his entire situation this summer.

“I’ve learned it’s a business.”

On his third trade request from a third different team since 2020, Harden undoubtedly has embraced the business nature of the sport more than most. We’ll continue to wait and see what balance he and the Sixers organization can strike.

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