Ever since James Harden called Daryl Morey a liar we’ve had a bevy of rumors and opinions come out in the hours since. Let’s get to a little Sixers rumor roundup from some of the top reporters in the business.
Earlier Wednesday, our Sean Kennedy examined ESPN Senior Writer (and one of the premier sources on all things Embiid) Ramona Shelburne’s comments after her local radio appearance.
“[Embiid] is happy to be a Sixer. I don’t think [his removing “Philadelphia” and the words “Processing....” from his Twitter profile] is a precursor to something. I think this is Joel Troel.”
Well, that’s a sigh or relief... if she’s right. You never know with this player. It seems at times with Embiid, everything he puts out online is intentional or has hidden meaning. But sometimes that intent is simply to stir the pot. But could he be sending a message to Daryl Morey to fix this mess or else?
It doesn’t seem like a coincidence the social media move comes on the heels of Harden’s pointed message. Maybe the whole team should just log off for awhile.
But yesterday, Shelburne had a few more thoughts on the subject of Embiid’s perspective on the entire fiasco. And while she concludes the reigning MVP is happy in Philly, one gets the sense that there’s at least a little bit more to the story.
Shelburne, appearing on “NBA Today:”
“I mean look, [Embiid] just got back from his honeymoon, he was in the Caribbean, like this is what you come home to. ‘Welcome back,’ right? (Laughs). And I think what’s difficult about this is that Joel Embiid still has a good relationship with James Harden. Like James Harden’s beef is not with Joel Embiid or with any of the Sixers players. It’s with Daryl Morey, very pointedly. And I think Embiid is just tired of this being a story, this is an annoyance for everybody. But his mentality is really going into camp in the best shape he can get into. Excited about the idea of playing with Tyrese Maxey and where he can go with his game. Maxey’s been out here in Los Angeles working with Joel’s trainer this summer. And there’s still a hope that maybe they can patch things up with Harden. But look, ‘leave other people’s problems to them.’ I think that’s the tactic right now that Embiid is taking is ‘let you guys figure it out, that’s not my problem.’ There’s still, what a couple months ’til training camp. But at some point it becomes his problem.”
So hearing more, you get the sense that Embiid might be more than a little bit frustrated. We all know that feeling when you’ve been away, enjoying a vacation, and you finally come back to work refreshed, but walk in to see a gargantuan ton of crap has piled up while you were gone. Sure, it’s technically the manager’s job to fix it, but you know some of this shit is gonna roll downhill and onto your plate.
And to that point, it doesn’t sound like this Harden stalemate is going to get better in the short term.
Per Shelburne, now on the subject of Harden potentially holding out and/or making life miserable for everyone involved:
“Somebody said to me yesterday, this is only the beginning. This is just the beginning of what James Harden is going to do to make life very uncomfortable for the Philadelphia 76ers going into training camp. And I think the expectation with Harden is — Ben Simmons, they went through this with Ben Simmons, he didn’t show up to camp.... That’s not gonna happen here with James Harden. This is going to be very uncomfortable, but Ben Simmons didn’t say anything. Ben Simmons stayed home, right? .... [Harden] was with a microphone, ‘let me repeat myself.’ The phrase I kept hearing [from sources] was ‘this is just the beginning.’ And so I think the Sixers have to ask themselves what are we prepared for, how do we handle this, is there any way that they can get through this and still have a productive season?”
Gulp. So yeah, Embiid may be saying all of the right things. He may well be genuinely excited to get back out there with Tyrese Maxey, who he now is sharing a trainer with in Drew Hanlen. But he would like Harden back. And that feels more than a little farfetched right now.
Joel Embiid reportedly tried to get James Harden to stay on the 76ers many times this summer, but Harden wasn’t interested.— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) August 16, 2023
(via Tampering Tuesday Show, The Athletic) pic.twitter.com/YFh4iQKcCW
So what can Morey do? How long will Embiid give this franchise to get things right again before he begins to validate all of these Knicks are monitoring situation rumors with a trade request?
Our next bit of intel comes from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Pincus discusses the implications of Harden calling Morey a liar, and what that could mean from an NBA, CBA and legal standpoint.
“It’s illegal for teams to make promises to players on future contracts, but teams tend to skirt the rules—just not in writing.... Whether Morey promised it or not, multiple sources indicated Harden was under the impression he would opt out and re-sign with Philadelphia on a max deal this summer.
But since such promises are non-binding (if one was indeed made), it apparently became clear to Harden that he and the Sixers were not on the same page.”
Nothing revelatory there because many of us already deduced that Harden feels led astray as far as his contract situation goes. He may need a wake-up call in terms of his standing as a max level player, as our Bryan Toporek explains, but nevertheless, if the Sixers did not feel Harden was worth bringing back on a long-term deal, then this entanglement is the cost of choosing to play hardball.
"Perhaps the Sixers did imply to Harden last offseason that they’d do right by him after he declined his $47.4 million player option....Either way, the new CBA might have changed that calculus."@btoporek throws some heat as always https://t.co/K6ETxQSa1G— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) August 16, 2023
This mess could still wind up being better for the organization in the long run than having signed Harden to a three (one similar to the deal Fred VanVleet signed in Houston) or even four-year max. And if they can get something of value in a trade (or convince him to play) it would wind up being better than had he simply opted out of his deal and changed teams.
On the flipside, one has to wonder: as disappointed as many fans would have been, should they have just paid up to run last year’s team back?
If Harden insists on only playing for the Clippers or doesn’t want to perform duties outlined in his contract, then the NBA (who just issued a memo after Damian Lillard tried forcing his way to Miami, specifically) can begin setting new precedent. Harden isn’t exactly the most sympathetic figure given his history of trade requests, even if you feel for him on some level now.
Yaron Weitzman of FoxSports opines “I think everyone’s misplayed [their hand], and now the ship is sinking.”
Weitzman also joins Jon Macri on a Knicks Film School pod and mentioned how Sixers fans are a little frustrated with Embiid’s Game 7 performance, and how Joel can be a little sensitive to local sentiment such as that. So Weitzman is interested to see if that factors into Embiid’s feelings on remaining in Philly for the long haul amid such hilarious scandal and asset mismanagement over the course of his now lengthy career in Philadelphia. That pod is worth a listen.
But Weitzman finishes that thought with this idea: “the other part no one ever talks about is this: Embid, even if he did demand a trade tomorrow...Morey’s not trading him, right? That’s the part people forget....”
(Morey once asked for Jayson friggin’ Tatum or Jaylen friggin’ Brown in exchange for Ben Simmons, MID mental health holdout, can you even imagine what he’d ask for in return for the MVP? LOLOL!)
So plenty for us to digest. It’s as if Harden took a blowtorch to what we figured might be another quiet week in the “have the Clippers increased their offer yet?” portion of the offseason.
If you’d have asked me, I would have guessed signing Kelly Oubre to a MLE might be the biggest topic this week. Shows what I know.