What, exactly, is the “personal matter” that has kept him away from the club since practice on October 15? Is it a valid absence, or would said matter have anything to do with the fact the Sixers haven’t traded him to his desired destination, the LA Clippers? Is there any chance the team will opt to fine him the nearly $390,000 per game it could for being unavailable the last preseason game and any regular season contests he may miss?
Even if he does return to the fold, how might his relationships with teammates be affected? Having dealt with the Ben Simmons affair, will Joel Embiid‘s last nerve be snapped, causing him, too, to seek a way out of town? Is new coach Nick Nurse having job acceptor’s remorse?
Many questions. Much uncertainty.
But the bottom line seems pretty clear to people we’ve spoken to around the league.
“Oh, man, they are f*****,” one front office source told Heavy Sports. “I’m telling you what, they are screwed.
“Daryl Morey’s not going to survive this.”
Daryl Morey on the Line in James Harden Fiasco
The Sixers’ head of basketball operations is undoubtedly on the line here. While Harden deserves the greatest share of blame for all this (regardless of alleged promises that may have been made, he signed a contract that says he gets $35.6 million for showing up and playing), Morey is in the crosshairs, too.
Harden had already shown himself to be a combustible commodity, but he and Morey had appeared to get along well when Morey was in charge of the Rockets and Harden was getting the ball and pretty much whatever else he wanted there.
Then with Morey gone, Harden asked out of Houston. After being dealt to Brooklyn at the blessing of then-Nets beacons Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, he sought to escape that failed experiment.
Morey was again able to give Harden what he wanted, engineering a deal to bring him down to Philadelphia. It made sense to get the Sixers away from Simmons, and the thought around the Sixers was that, sure, Harden has been a handful for his last two teams, but being reunited with Morey will eliminate the bad stuff and get the most out of the numbers-producer.
But playing beside a guy on his way to an MVP season wasn’t enough to get consistency out of Harden (see: his 3-for-11 shooting and five turnovers in Game 7 as Philly blows a 3-2 series against Boston).
Clippers in No Hurry on Harden
Harden had signed a team-friendly deal prior to the season with an out — which he chose not to exercise this past summer even after the club did not come through with a big money extension. He was then — and still — banking on Morey satisfying his trade demand. When such a transaction wasn’t forthcoming, Harden called Morey a liar and said he’d never play for an organization that employs Morey.
But from the way things were looking over the weekend and Monday, it may be extremely hard for the ends to be connected on a deal.
One source who’s been in contact with the Clippers and others told Heavy Sports, “Daryl’s trying to steal people in trades, and nobody’s going for it. First thing, Harden’s not the same guy he was three or four years ago, so his market’s not that great. And Morey’s trying to get so much, but he’s not going to get it.”
Added one NBA coach, “This is who James is. If you think he can be a piece that adds to what you already have and gets you over the top, maybe you think about him. But that’s what Philly thought and we see how that’s worked out. In any case, you can’t give up too much for him. No way.”
Will Morey lower his asking price? Will Harden come back to avoid the possibility of fines (in addition to aforementioned penalty for missing games, he could also be subject to $2,500 for practices missed)? Will the 76ers be able to whether this storm without significant damage to their season?
More questions. More uncertainty.