Ever since James Harden surprised many of us by opting into the final year of his contract and simultaneously requesting a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, we’ve had an ongoing series of non-updates on the tired situation.
But this time we have something that’s pretty different. ESPN’s top dog, Adrian Wojnarowski hopped on X, formerly Twitter, and posted the following update:
ESPN Sources: The 76ers have ended trade talks on guard James Harden and plan to bring him back to training camp for start of the season. The Sixers had periodic offseason conversations with the Clippers — Harden’s desired destination — but no traction on a deal materialized. pic.twitter.com/sJwXMsBYKW— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 12, 2023
Woj followed up by noting that:
“Sixers and Harden agreed to seek a trade together after Harden picked up his player option for 2023-2024, but Philly believes it has a championship team with Harden and want to find a way to make it work with him this season, sources said. Harden has been emphatic in wanting a trade, so the Sixers are setting up an uncomfortable situation to start camp. Ultimately, Philadelphia wouldn’t make a trade that they believed would compromise their title hopes.”
So it seems Daryl Morey is no longer willing to try and honor James Harden’s trade request.
This one comes mere days after Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the following:
The Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers are expected to engage again in discussions on a Harden trade this offseason, league sources who are involved in the discussions but unauthorized to speak on the matter say. Harden still prefers to be moved, and Philadelphia is working to honor his wish, as 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey recently said.”
Shams suggesting that the two teams would “engage again” on discussions, coupled with the new report from Woj that the Sixers are ending talks in hopes of bringing Harden back into the mix, would seem to indicate that the Los Angeles Clippers are still coming up well short on the type of offer that would actually get Philadelphia to pull the trigger. Perhaps, Morey even decided that in the last several days and this is the team’s way of publicly saying fuhgeddaboutit.
Of course, skeptics will point to the fact that Morey once hopped on local radio to remind us the Ben Simmons trade situation could go on for “another four years,” and a deal was consummated not three-and-a-half months later, so you never know.
For my money, I’d wager it’s the truth that the Sixers very much want to keep Harden. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reminded us of that just last week:
“If you ask the [Sixers] players, they are hopeful that James Harden plays with them this year. That’s option one. It’s the same thing for the front office, but the front office is in a bit of a stalemate with James Harden. There’s nothing happening right now in terms of trade discussions.... there’s just no offers that really move this team forward.”
That being said, I’d also wager that Harden remains pretty hellbent on getting himself moved to L.A. Therefore, I don’t totally buy the idea that the Sixers won’t pick up talks at another point in the future. It’s entirely possible we look back at updates like these as mere leverage ploys by Morey, a notoriously fierce negotiator who never seems to be in any particular hurry.
As Sixers fans have now learned, the former Rockets President is willing to get uncomfortable. He’s willing to endure a mental health absence-slash-hold out. And heck, the last time this team dealt with one of those, it may have even worked out since Ben Simmons didn’t hurt himself before they were able to get something hashed out with Brooklyn by that 2022 February trade deadline.
Maybe Harden can wear bubble wrap instead of the trade me fat suit to better avoid hamstring injuries.
We’ll continue to monitor this situation. It seems it’s always developing with yet another twist or turn. Morey and Harden have a long history. But these days, it’s mired in a real stalemate.
We’ll buckle up for the fat suit jokes. Or maybe this time around Harden will pull a Jimmy Butler in Minnesota and team up with the third stringers to kick the starters butts all while yelling at Josh Harris. Stay tuned.
Editor’s note: after this story was published, we got a new update from Sam Amick of The Athletic.
From Saturday night, Amick reports:
“No matter what signals the Sixers might send when it comes to trade talks, a source close to Harden reiterated that the 10-time All-Star and former MVP no longer wants to play for Philadelphia and has no plans of taking part in training camp.”