Sixers Notes: Morey, Harden, Maxey, Harris

The Sixers‘ standoff with James Harden is the latest challenge for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey as he faces a career-defining season, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Former head coach Doc Rivers took most of the heat for the team’s second-round exit in last season’s playoffs, but the blame for another disappointing finish will fall on Morey, Pompey adds. He made a coaching change this summer, bringing in Nick Nurse, who’s more aligned with Morey’s approach to the game. However, the roster remained largely the same, and the Sixers appeared to lose ground in the Eastern Conference arms race as the Bucks traded for Damian Lillard while the Celtics added Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday.

“I do believe what Milwaukee and Boston have done is very good,” Morey said, “but this is why we play the games. We’ve got the MVP of the league (Joel Embiid). We have an up-and-coming, star-level player in (Tyrese) Maxey. We’ve got great, great winning-type players on this roster.”

The Sixers’ fortunes will depend heavily on how Morey resolves the situation with Harden, who has been demanding a trade ever since he picked up his $35.6MM option in late June. Harden has indicated that he plans to make things uncomfortable in Philadelphia until he gets his way, and he has already publicly called Morey a liar and stated that he’ll never play for him again. Morey has mostly remained silent about their broken relationship.

“This year, regardless of what happens with James, we’re going to be a very (bleeping) good team,” Morey told Pompey. “If James is here, we’re going to be even better. If James isn’t here or we trade him for something, we’re going to be very good.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Harden is still away from the team and there’s no clarity on whether he will be available for Thursday’s season opener, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
  • Embiid believes Maxey is ready to take over the playmaking duties if Harden doesn’t show up, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “If he wants to lead the league in assists, he can, but that was great to see,” Embiid said after Maxey handed out 12 assists in Friday’s preseason finale. “I just wanted to get everybody going and just work on our two-man game, the timing of everything. I thought we did a pretty fine job. … The ball wasn’t sticking. It was just moving.”
  • Nurse may be the right coach to turn Tobias Harris into a star, just as he did with Pascal Siakam in Toronto, Pompey suggests in a separate story. Nurse wants Harris to have a larger role in the offense, and Harris is enjoying the changes that he’s brought. “Every day we’re in the lab, working on different looks, different reads, different options,” Harris said. “And I think this is probably the most excited I’ve been throughout my whole career of a team and a great situation. Every day that we come on that court, I’m generally being pushed and coached and excited for the opportunity.”
View Comments (3)