Having returned from China to Houston for his JH-Town Weekend charity event, Sixers star James Harden was asked by KHOU 11’s Jason Bristol whether his relationship with his current NBA team is “beyond repair.”
“I think so,” Harden replied.
Harden’s response isn’t surprising, given that he’s just a few days removed from calling Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey a liar and stating that he’ll never again be part of an organization that Morey is a part of.
Still, Harden’s position is worth noting, since it suggests he’s not taking the same route Kevin Durant took in Brooklyn a year ago. Durant reportedly told the Nets last August that they should choose between trading him or firing general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash.
Harden, conversely, has offered no such ultimatum to the Sixers and given no indication that he’d be happy to remain in Philadelphia if Morey is dismissed. It’s also possible he believes there’s little chance that 76ers ownership would choose him over Morey at this point and that it’s not a strategy worth pursuing.
Asked by Bristol whether he has an open line of communication with the Sixers and how patient he needs to be as he waits for his trade request to be granted, Harden said he’s “been patient all summer.”
“For me, it’s just focus on what I can control, and that’s working out, staying in shape, and getting ready for a good season,” the former MVP added.
It remains unclear how the standoff between the Sixers and Harden might be resolved. While the veteran guard has no desire to play another game for the team and reportedly doesn’t plan to attend training camp if he’s still on the roster, the organization isn’t making a concerted effort to move him and still expects him at camp.
Both sides have some leverage in the dispute. The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement states that a player who withholds his services for more than 30 days is deemed to have not completed his contract. That means Philadelphia could prevent Harden – who has an expiring deal – from reaching free agency in 2024 if he declines to report to the Sixers for more than a month without the club’s consent.
However, Harden has some recent experience steering himself to a preferred destination without needing to resort to a holdout — he pushed for and received trades out of Houston in 2021 and Brooklyn in 2022. The Sixers also likely won’t want to risk ruining another year of Joel Embiid‘s prime by spending a significant portion of the season dealing with Harden-related drama.