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Everyone loses in the Harden-Morey standoff — but nobody more than Sixers fans

James Harden is forcing his way out of Philadelphia. Daryl Morey is trying to hold firm. Meanwhile, Sixers fans are somewhere between apoplectic and apathetic.

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The sketch comedy show I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson has blown up over the last few years. It’s become perhaps the greatest meme and GIF producer of all time.

The show’s most popular meme comes from a sketch about a guy in a hot dog suit driving his hot dog car into a clothing store. Robinson, in full hot dog garb, tries to act like he was not the perpetrator of the act, despite the obvious evidence.

We’re all trying to find the guy that did this!

As James Harden and Daryl Morey face off in an ugly stalemate, everyone is losing — but nobody more than Sixers fans. So, who drove the hot dog car through the storefront? Well, everyone with the Sixers is wearing a hot dog suit.

Nobody aside from Harden and his inner circle knows exactly why he called Morey a liar during an appearance at an Adidas camp in Shanghai, China (yeah, that feels purposeful). There’s speculation that the Sixers offered Harden a wink-wink deal — if he agreed to take a pay cut last summer, they’d offer him something close to the max this summer. This is something the Sixers have denied vehemently. The league’s tampering investigation into the team last offseason found no wrongdoing in regards to any type of promise.

Aside from that, the biggest hole in that theory is why Harden’s representation felt the need to get Harden-to-the-Rockets rumors going on freaking Christmas day. If Harden was promised something close to a max offer from the Sixers, why leverage a potential Houston reunion for months on end while Harden’s current team was trying to win a championship?

Could Morey have implied Harden would be “taken care of” if he took the pay cut last season? Perhaps. But Harden seems detached from reality if he believes — at nearly 34 years old, after another playoff flameout, with a new, restrictive CBA — a team was going to give him more money than what the Sixers planned to offer him. So now, we have Harden’s third trade request in four years.

As for Morey, the Harden stuff is hard to crush him for. Don’t get it twisted, this is a disaster. But the bigger disaster would’ve been signing Harden to a long-term, near-max contract. If you want to fault Morey in this standoff, you could argue he should’ve known better than to partner up with Harden again, especially while the former MVP was showing signs of decline and had shown a propensity for putting teams in the exact situation the Sixers find themselves in. (For the record, Harden is still a very good player. He’s a fringe All-Star. But that’s not worth a max contract.)

One of Morey’s strengths is assuredly one of his greatest weaknesses. He treats this like a cold, calculated business. And it certainly can be. Credit where it’s due for the way he handled the Ben Simmons fiasco. It eventually led to landing Harden — something nobody foresaw when we were in this eerily similar spot in August 2021. An emotional executive might’ve gotten antsy with outside pressure, but Morey didn’t blink.

Conversely, the deterioration of the relationship between the Sixers and Simmons falls in part on Morey — even Morey himself has admitted that. No matter how you feel about Simmons, then or now, he was a multi-time All-Star and considered a cornerstone of this franchise. Now, no matter how you feel about Harden or how delusional you think he might be, the future Hall of Famer blasting Morey as a liar in a viral clip is not good for business — whether founded or unfounded. Current and former teammates have already come forward with their support for Harden.

But at the end of the day, the games are played by the players. The team on the court simply hasn’t been good enough to get the job done. Adding insult to injury is the annual offseason drama, as our friend Derek Bodner chronicled:

Wouldn’t it be cool to be a fan of a team that avoided drama AND won?! Or really, you could deal with the drama if the team could advance past the second round a time or two.

This falls on everyone. From Josh Harris to Morey to Harden to Joel Embiid on down.

(Well, not Tyrese Maxey. Why can’t everyone just be like Tyrese Maxey?)

Harden is trying to burn the Sixers to the ground in order to force a trade. Morey is seemingly trying to put out a wildfire with a water gun. Meanwhile, the fans are the ones engulfed in flames and suffocating from the smoke.

The drama has kept fans enticed despite the team’s failures, but that’s wearing thin. At this point, fans are going from apoplectic to apathetic.

Maybe Harden has a come-to-Jesus moment or Morey finds his ideal trade. Until then, we’re all trying to find the guy that did this.

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