Sixers Notes: Harden, Maxey, Morey, Nurse

Some people with the Sixers were surprised that James Harden picked up his 2023/24 player option in June, says Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. According to Scotto, if Harden had opted out, Philadelphia would have been open to re-signing him to another two-year deal – possibly with a team option – but such a short-term commitment wouldn’t have appealed to the former MVP.

Having decided he wanted to leave Philadelphia to join the Clippers, Harden recognized that he wouldn’t be able to get to Los Angeles on a market-value contract if he opted for free agency, so he exercised his option and began pushing for a trade.

Now, the process is somewhat out of his hands, but there continues to be dialogue between the Sixers and Clippers, per Scotto. The start of training camp will be a key inflection point to watch, since the 76ers may not want to have to deal with a disgruntled star in camp this fall.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Scotto wonders if the 76ers’ stance against extending Tyrese Maxey this offseason would change if the team takes back one or two multiyear contracts in a Harden deal, since its ability to open up significant cap room in 2024 would be somewhat compromised. However, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who joined Scotto on the HoopsHype podcast, is skeptical that the Sixers will reverse course and extend Maxey, noting that putting off a deal until 2024 allows the club to maintain more trade flexibility. For his part, Maxey probably has no reason to pursue an extension unless Philadelphia is offering the max, Scotto observes.
  • The Sixers can no longer blame Doc Rivers or “The Process” if they remain unable to make a deep playoff run, notes Pompey, suggesting that president of basketball operations Daryl Morey could find himself on the hot seat within the next year or two if the team can’t get past the second round of the playoffs. “When Brett Brown was the coach, it was the second round. When Elton Brand was leading the front office, it was the second round,” Pompey said. “Now, you’ve got Morey and three max players or close to it in Harden, (Joel) Embiid, and Tobias Harris, and it’s been three seasons in a row that they ended their season in the second round. I think Morey could be in trouble if they don’t get out of the second round.”
  • According to Pompey, one source he spoke to recently indicated that new head coach Nick Nurse won’t be concerned about what the Sixers’ opening night roster looks like as long as it’s fully formed by the time the playoffs begin. However, Pompey believes it would put Nurse in a tough spot if the Harden situation hasn’t been resolved one way or another by the time the season begins. “If you’re a first-year coach taking over a team, you want to know what utensils you’re going to have when you start cooking the meal, not when you’re finishing the meal,” Pompey said. “You want to know what the flour is going to be. When you start baking the cake, you want to start with the flour. You don’t want to bring the flour in at the end when you’ve got to make the best cake possible. You can’t pause the oven and then sprinkle it in there.”
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