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Report: James Harden ‘was pouting’ about not originally being selected an All-Star; Sixers ‘were stunned’ at his opt-in decision

The Philadelphia 76ers do not put the ‘fun’ in dysfunction.

Philadelphia 76ers Introduce New Players - Press Conference Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

It had been maybe a week or so since Philadelphians had to think about and, thus, be depressed by the Philadelphia 76ers. Naturally, we were overdue for the next inciting bit of drama and it came this morning via reporting from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne surrounding the feud between James Harden and the Sixers franchise. Be sure to give the full article a read, but let’s take a look at the newest and juiciest nuggets, of which there are a few.

James Harden did not handle being an All-Star snub in an adult manner

“THE FIRST HINT that Harden’s “sacrifice” wasn’t being appreciated, much less rewarded in the way he hoped, came in late January when he wasn’t voted to be an All-Star. Harden, who had made 10 consecutive All-Star games, was dismayed at the snub, sources said.

It didn’t help that his former Nets teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had both been voted in as starters by the fans, media and players, while Harden was a distant fourth among Eastern Conference guards behind Irving, Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown.

Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was prepared to name him as an injury replacement, sources said. Harden just had to give assurances that he would show up and play in the game.

Days went by without Harden’s answer. He was pouting.

By the time Harden sent word that he would accept the invitation, Silver had moved on, naming Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam as the replacement for an injured Durant.”

James, you’re so upset about not being selected as an All-Star the first time that when you actually receive a second chance at being an All-Star, you can’t make a phone call in a timely manner? That’s some real cutting off your nose to spite your face stuff.

Doc Rivers was not hitting the right notes in terms of coaching Harden

“In mid-December, Rivers lit into Harden for taking the final three shots in regulation of a double-overtime loss to the young and lottery-bound-again Rockets, sources said. It wasn’t that Rivers didn’t trust Harden to take the final three shots — he had allowed him to run the offense and call his own number on the final play of regulation by not calling a timeout following a defensive rebound. It’s that the Rockets had no answer for Embiid (39 points) all night and Harden wasn’t shooting well (4-for-19).

When questioned in the film session, Harden demurred, saying he just couldn’t get the ball to Embiid, sources said. These flare-ups between Harden and Rivers continued throughout the season.


But Harden didn’t travel with the team to Miami, sources said. He traveled separately, with permission from the front office, to enjoy the nightlife. This is not uncommon in the NBA, or for Harden, but it didn’t sit well with Rivers and several players on the team, sources said.

Days later, Rivers brought it up in a team meeting, sources said, specifically mentioning several of the players who expressed concerns about Harden’s actions.

The whole episode was “uncomfortable,” one team source said. Even if they agreed with the substance of Rivers’ message to Harden, and the idea of holding him accountable, it was awkward for the players who were named.”

Now, coaching stars in a player-driven league is not an easy task. You have to keep them happy, while also holding them accountable to a certain extent in order to get the best out of them. It’s a fine line to walk. But this is very shoddy work from Doc Rivers, particularly naming Harden’s teammates who expressed concerns. That’s some real narc behavior.

The Sixers’ fear of another tampering fine was very real and exacerbated a lot of what has happened this summer

“But now, when it mattered most, Morey wasn’t taking Harden’s calls.

“James felt like Daryl was ghosting him,” one source close to Harden said. “He felt betrayed.”

Rather than wait for Morey and the Sixers to present whatever offer they had come up with once free agency opened July 1, Harden and his representatives, Mike Silverman and Troy Payne, decided to pick up his $35.6 million player option before the June 30 deadline and ask for a trade.

Better to take the guaranteed money for the 2023-24 season than be forced to accept whatever offer the team made him.

The Sixers were stunned at Harden’s decision, sources said, insisting to him and his representatives that they had been distant only because they were just hit with the largest tampering fine in NBA history and that they had every intention of re-signing him, as soon as the rules allowed.

But Harden was already too far gone.

“James takes things very personally,” another source close to Harden said. “When he feels like he’s been wronged, he can be very stubborn.”

An important thing to remember is that under the new CBA, which went into effect July 1, the Sixers would have been able to negotiate with their own free agents prior to the start of free agency and none of this miscommunication would have taken place. However, because the team was operating within the final weeks of an antiquated system, we’re left talking about ghosting and betrayal like we’re in a high school cafeteria. Maybe you’re of the mindset that the Sixers are better off either trading Harden or having him sit out and come off the books next summer, rather than signing him to whatever deal they were prepared to offer him. It’s a perfectly valid viewpoint. But it certainly would have been less of a headache for everyone involved with and following this team.

Fortunately, things haven’t soured with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey

“Thus far, Embiid has given the franchise assurances he is OK riding out the current drama with Harden, sources said. How long he gives them to resolve the matter remains to be seen.

Maxey has done the same, even waiting on a contract extension this summer so the franchise can preserve its ability to operate under the salary cap and improve the team in the future.

Both have been in touch with Harden throughout, maintaining their personal relationships. Embiid even invited Harden to his wedding in July, sources said.”

The Harden stuff is all very annoying and doesn’t bode well for the Sixers’ chances of winning a title in 2024, but it really doesn’t impact the long-term future for the future. If it poisons the well with either Embiid or Maxey, however, all that could change. By some stroke of luck, the franchise’s two biggest building blocks still seem to be a good place. If that ever were to happen, SB Nation might really have a second Thunder blog.

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