James Harden has another new opportunity in his NBA career and a fresh chance to redefine his legacy after being traded to the Clippers last month. Instead of being remorseful about how the situation in Philadelphia ended and the dissolution of his longtime friendship with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, Harden tells Sam Amick of The Athletic, “People were throwing dirt on my name, but the good guys always win.”
In the in-depth interview, Harden claims that Morey promised him a max contract in 2023 after he took less money in 2022 to help the Sixers fortify their roster. Harden adds that he was expecting Morey to honor that promise, but he could tell something had changed when Morey stopped communicating with him after the team’s playoff run ended.
“Yeah, me and Daryl had a really good relationship. So (in the past), a week or two after we lose in the playoffs, it would be all about trying to figure out how to improve the team,” Harden said. “(They’d talk about) ‘How do we get better?’ And that’s been going on for 10-plus years, you know what I mean? And then this year, there was no communication. And at that point, it’s like, ‘OK, I see what’s going on.’ I’m very intelligent. So then I just figure out, ‘What’s my next move, and what do I want to do?’ So I understand that, at the end of the day, this is a business. And just like he has to do what’s best for his organization, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and my family. It’s as simple as that.”
Instead of turning down his $35.6MM player option for this season, Harden decided to exercise it shortly before the deadline in late June while asking the organization for a trade. He believes that allowed him to keep some leverage toward winding up with a contender, as virtually all the teams with cap room were rebuilding.
“It would have looked different for sure,” Harden says of potentially testing the free agent market. “The teams that are growing, or young, were gonna have the money, but that doesn’t make sense. And then the competitive teams don’t have the money. So all in all, it would have probably ended up with me looking Philly in the face again. So it was strategic, and people can talk and say (things), but they have no idea (without being) in this situation. Like I continue to say, I made the best decision for myself and my family.”
Harden addresses several other topics in the interview. Here are a few highlights:
On the long wait between picking up his option and being traded:
“No, I wasn’t sweating. It was just patience, because the day that I opted in, there was a conversation and communication (with the Sixers) about it being a 10-day process. This was gonna happen within 10 days, and then it got dragged out for four and a half months or however long it was. So at that point, you’re holding my life up, holding everybody else’s life up. You’re making it look crazier than what it is. And something that we had internal conversations about is basically dragging out, so it was a little frustrating. All in all, I’d sacrificed all that to go to Philly with some people that I trusted, and it bit me in the ass, you know what I mean? So it’s part of life, and we all go through certain things, so it’s gonna make me tougher.”
On his interest in going back to Houston, which he said included a meeting between his representatives and new Rockets coach Ime Udoka:
“Where is the personnel for that on that team? And in the last three or four years, what have I been trying to accomplish (in terms of play-making)? You can answer that for yourself. Now the meeting was had, and those conversations about style of play, how I’ve been playing and things like that (took place). But (the idea of) me going out there and averaging 30-something points a game — who wants to do that?”
Whether there’s eventually a chance to reconcile with Morey:
“There’s too much money, too much respect (lost) and too much loyalty on my end to even double back (with Morey). There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing to talk about. This is real money.”