Daryl Morey

James Harden Skips Sixers’ Media Day

James Harden has decided to skip the Sixers‘ media day to protest the team’s failure to meet his trade request, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Harden could be fined for missing the event, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link). After the session with the media wraps up, the Sixers will depart for training camp at Colorado State University, and it’s not clear whether Harden intends to accompany them.

The Clippers remain Harden’s preferred destination, but sources tell Wojnarowski that although the teams engaged in recent trade discussions, there’s no traction on a Harden deal to Los Angeles or anywhere else.

Bobby Marks of ESPN points out that Harden could be found in violation of his contract under the CBA’s “withholding services” clause if he stays away from the team for more than 30 days, which could endanger his free agency for next summer (Twitter link). The fine for not appearing at media day could be added to fines for missing practice as well as 1/91.6 of his salary ($389,083) for each preseason or regular season game he sits out.

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey opened media day with a statement about Harden (Twitter link from Tim Bontemps of ESPN), telling reporters, “He continues to seek a trade and we are continuing to work with his representation to find the best solution for the 76ers and all parties. In terms of a trade, I will continue to work on those fronts and, if he’s here, then coach will work with him on the court. I think it’s pretty straightforward.”

Asked about potential fines, Morey said Harden will be treated “like every other player under the rules of the CBA” (Twitter link).

New head coach Nick Nurse said he has a “Plan A” and “Plan B,” depending on whether Harden eventually decides to be part of the team. Nurse’s immediate concern is getting a foundation in place to start the season.

Harden has been feuding with the Sixers, and Morey in particular, over what he believes are promises that weren’t lived up to. Harden expected to sign a lucrative long-term deal with the team after giving up money last summer, but he didn’t get the offer he was expecting. He made a surprising choice in late June to pick up his option for next season and ask for a trade, but hasn’t been gotten dealt as he’d hoped. He has indicated that he will continue to be disruptive as long as he remains in Philadelphia.

Latest On James Harden

Entering the 2023 offseason, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey viewed re-signing James Harden as the team’s top priority, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com writes in an in-depth look at the Harden saga. In fact, sources tell Shelburne that the “unofficial” reason the team moved on from head coach Doc Rivers was an awareness that Harden didn’t want to play for him again.

If Harden had declined his $35.6MM player option and become a free agent, he would’ve been eligible for contract worth up to $213MM over four years. According to Shelburne, the veteran was hoping for – and expecting – an offer in that range. However, since the Rockets‘ interest in Harden waned following their hiring of Ime Udoka, the former MVP didn’t have the leverage to extract that sort of offer from Philadelphia.

Unsure what sort of offer might be awaiting him when free agency opened, Harden attempted to touch base with Morey to determine the club’s position, but the 76ers – who were forced to forfeit two future second-round picks due to free agency gun jumping a year ago – weren’t willing to negotiate early.

“James felt like Daryl was ghosting him,” a source close to Harden told ESPN. “He felt betrayed.”

Harden and his representatives ultimately decided to take the guaranteed money by picking up his player option rather than being forced into a position where they’d have to accept whatever offer the Sixers made in free agency. The club was “stunned” by the decision, per Shelburne, who said the front office subsequently attempted to convey that it had only been “distant” with Harden leading up to free agency because of last year’s penalties. However, that did little to mend the relationship.

“James takes things very personally,” a second source close to Harden said to Shelburne. “When he feels like he’s been wronged, he can be very stubborn.”

Here are a few more highlights from Shelburne’s story, which is worth checking out in full:

  • Morey assured Harden’s camp that he would make a good faith effort to trade the 34-year-old and had initial talks with the Clippers and Knicks, league sources tell ESPN. However, when it became clear that no potential trade partners were willing to give up the sort of assets Philadelphia was seeking, the team informed Harden that it planned to hang onto him, a decision he didn’t take well.
  • Harden and Rivers had multiple “flare-ups” throughout the 2022/23 season, as Shelburne details. One such incident occurred in late February, following a pair of home losses to the Celtics and Heat. The Sixers were scheduled to play in Miami two days after falling at home to the Heat, and Harden opted to travel separately from the team to take advantage of the nightlife, which didn’t sit well with Rivers and some of his teammates. Rivers brought up the incident a few days later during a team meeting, specifically mentioning some of the players who were unhappy, which made for an “uncomfortable” situation, Shelburne explains.
  • Harden, whose numbers dipped a little as he accepted a secondary role in Philadelphia, was upset that he wasn’t initially named an All-Star in 2023, says Shelburne. While commissioner Adam Silver was still prepared to name Harden as an injury replacement for Kevin Durant, he wanted assurances that the star guard would show up and play. “Days went by” without an answer from Harden, who was “pouting,” according to Shelburne. Pascal Siakam was eventually chosen as Durant’s replacement instead.
  • Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey have each expressed to the Sixers that they’re OK waiting out the Harden saga, at least for the time being, sources tell ESPN. Both players are still on good terms with their teammate — Embiid invited Harden to his wedding in July, according to Shelburne.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Morey, Embiid, Point Guards

Responding to speculation that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey may welcome the opportunity to tear down and rebuild the roster, Marc Stein expresses skepticism (Substack link), observing that Morey has never displayed an appetite for a rebuild during his time as a head basketball operations executive.

If the Sixers do end up moving James Harden for a package that’s heavier on draft assets than win-now players, Stein anticipates the club will look to flip those picks for another top-level player.

Philadelphia’s ultimate goal, according to Stein, is to supplement its Joel Embiid/Tyrese Maxey duo with another star. Ideally, a Harden trade would net that sort of star or open up a path to land one, but the 76ers are also preserving cap flexibility for 2024, which could create another opportunity to pursue an impact player.

Here’s more on Harden and the Sixers:

  • The worst-case scenario for the 76ers would be if the ongoing Harden situation becomes ugly enough to result in an Embiid trade request. Embiid isn’t at that point, according to Stein, but some sources who spoke to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com believe Philadelphia needs to proceed with caution in order to ensure Embiid remains happy.
  • Keith Smith of Spotrac takes an in-depth look at Harden’s stand-off with the Sixers, including how his contract situation factors into the equation and what sort of solution might resolve what has become an increasingly tense “staring contest.”
  • Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer takes stock of where things stand between the Sixers and Harden, noting that it’s good news for the team that the NBA’s latest investigation apparently turned up no indications of a cap-circumventing handshake deal between the two sides when the veteran free agent guard reached free agency a year ago. Mizell also considers which Sixers players will take on more ball-handling responsibilities if Harden has played his last game for the team.

Players Association Disagrees With Harden Fine, Will File Grievance

The National Basketball Players Association has expressed in a statement its disagreement with the $100K fine issued by the league to James Harden and will file a grievance on his behalf.

The fine was issued in response to Harden’s recent comments in which he referred to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey as a “liar” and said he had no intention of being part of an organization that Morey is a part of, as well as a follow-up interview in which he stated that he thinks his relationship with the franchise is “beyond repair.”

The NBPA believes Harden’s comments directed toward Morey do not constitute a trade demand. An arbitrator will decide whether Harden will have to pay the fine.

The statement read, “We respectfully disagree with the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, which we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demands. We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”

The NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a section stating that “any player who publicly expresses a desire to be traded to another team shall be subject to a fine” up to $150K.

A separate section of the CBA gives the league latitude to fine a player up to $100K if he makes a “statement having, or that was designed to have, an effect prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball or of the Association or of a (team).”

The NBA’s announcement earlier today indicated that Harden was fined because he suggested he “would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team,” which the league could argue falls under the latter of the two categories outlined above, rather than the former.

Luke Adams contributed to this story.

NBA Fines James Harden $100K

The NBA has fined Sixers star James Harden $100K, the league announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

The fine is in response to Harden’s recent comments in which he referred to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey as a “liar” and said he had no intention of being part of an organization that Morey is a part of, as well as a follow-up interview in which he stated that he thinks his relationship with the franchise is “beyond repair.”

“(Harden) has been find $100,000 by the NBA for public comments on August 14 and 17 indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team,” the NBA’s statement reads. “The league’s investigation, which included an interview with Harden, confirmed that these comments referenced Harden’s belief that the 76ers would not accommodate his request to be traded.”

Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT first reported (via Twitter) that Harden was on the cusp of receiving a substantial fine from the league, while ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) was the first to report it would be worth $100K.

After Harden called Morey a liar during a promotional appearance in China, the NBA launched an investigation to determine what the former MVP’s comments were referring to and to ascertain whether he intends to hold out this fall.

There had been some speculation that Harden was suggesting he and the Sixers reached a handshake agreement during his 2022 free agency on a contract to be finalized in 2023 and that Morey reneged on that agreement. If the NBA found proof of such an agreement, the 76ers would have faced a significant punishment of their own.

However, there has been no indication that Harden was talking about his contract situation when he said Morey lied. As Shams Charania of The Athletic reports, Harden informed league investigators that he called Morey a liar because the Sixers president told the veteran guard he’d be traded “quickly” after he asked to be moved in June.

That obviously hasn’t happened, and recent reporting has suggested that Philadelphia is no longer engaging in trade talks involving Harden. But since the Sixers have no obligation to trade a player who asks to be moved, they’re not in violation of any league rules and won’t face any discipline from the NBA at this time.

On the other hand, as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the league has the ability to fine a player a maximum of $100K (up from $50K in the previous CBA) for “conduct or statements prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball.” The NBA apparently determined that Harden’s statements fit that bill.

According to The Athletic, Sixers owner Josh Harris said on Monday that he’s working to convince Harden to remain in Philadelphia, but isn’t closing the door on a trade.

“I respect James. I want to, obviously, accommodate what he wants,” Harris said. “At the same time, I have to think about a championship-contending team, what we can get back. I’d love to convince him to stay. I understand that that’s not what he wants to do right now.

“I’m going to keep working to resolve it in a way that everyone can live with and is positive for everyone, whatever that resolution is. … I respect him as a basketball player, and as a person. It’s back to, these are, you’re dealing with people, right? And you’ve got to be there. We’ll see where it comes out.”

Eastern Notes: Beverley, DeRozan, Bulls’ Schedule, Embiid, Knicks

It seems unlikely now that new Sixers point guard Patrick Beverley will play with James Harden in Philadelphia but he doesn’t blame Harden for being upset over his contract situation, Dave Early of LibertyBallers.com relays. Beverley weighed in on the Harden saga on his Pat Bev Podcast With Rone.

“I don’t think it’s coming from a bad place. I think he understands exactly what he’s doing,” Beverley said. “And like I said it’s a tough one, ’cause I know both (Harden and Sixers executive Daryl Morey)…. I understand both guys…. it’s just so many pieces that we’re not educated about. But we do know there was something in place that didn’t go down and one man feels some type of way which he’s entitled to feel that way. So I’m not here for the bad James Harden press at all. … I hope I’m able to suit up and play with James Harden but from the way things are looking, [it’s] unfortunate.”

Beverley signed a one-year deal with the Sixers in July.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • DeMar DeRozan ranks as the Bulls’ most valuable trade asset among the team’s core group of players, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times opines. DeRozan, a highly-respected veteran scorer with an expiring contract, could be a hot property for a team with championship aspirations. Nikola Vucevic, despite the fact he signed an extension, could bring more in a deal at the trade deadline than Zach LaVine because of his more affordable contract, Cowley writes.
  • In a separate story, Cowley weighs in on five key games for the Bulls during this upcoming season. The last of the games on his list is the April 1 contest with the Hawks, who played three highly entertaining, hotly-contested games with Chicago last season.
  • The Knicks are one of many teams monitoring the Sixers’ situation and the possibility of Joel Embiid requesting a trade, Matt Ehalt of the New Yok Post writes. It would be an ideal scenario for the Knicks and New York’s top executive, Leon Rose, has the pieces and assets to trade for a superstar. Embiid, whom Rose represented early in the reigning MVP’s career, would immediately make the Knicks serious title contenders.

Sixers Notes: Cap Space, Embiid, Harden, Investigation

It’s no secret leaguewide that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is maintaining cap flexibility with an eye toward 2024 free agency. Joel Embiid and P.J. Tucker are currently the only two players who look like locks to have salaries on the books next offseason, with Embiid owed $51.4MM next year and under team control until 2026, and Tucker possessing an $11.5MM player option for 2023/24 he seems likely to exercise.

It goes further than just having two players under guaranteed money next season, however. The Sixers had the opportunity to extend rising star guard Tyrese Maxey beginning July 1 but haven’t done so, in order to maintain said flexibility. Maxey does have a cap hold of around $13MM, though. The James Harden saga illustrates that the Sixers were unwilling to give Harden a max contract that would have affected their ’24 cap space. All signs point toward the Sixers aiming to add a star or two to pair alongside Embiid next summer.

In a recent piece, The Athletic’s Danny Leroux looks ahead to next year’s offseason and considers some of the names the Sixers could target. If the Sixers look to a star player in free agency, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Jrue Holiday are among the max-level players Philadelphia could aim to sign. There are pros and cons to signing each player, but Leroux suggests Anunoby would be the best outcome here, despite less star-power than the other options, due to his on-court ability and age.

Leroux also writes that the Sixers could package their space, which he speculates could be as much as 35% of the total cap, and sign two players whose contract sums equal one max. The biggest names in this category include DeMar DeRozan and Klay Thompson, though both come with their fair share of risks and seem unlikely, at this time, to depart their incumbent teams. Miami’s Caleb Martin and Charlotte’s Gordon Hayward are two sleepers Leroux believes the Sixers could sign away next year.

Lastly, the Sixers also have the option to swing a trade for a star rather than signing one. But Leroux also notes a few issues with this approach. For starters, it would be difficult for the asset-depleted Sixers to match salaries or send out enough to entice a team to trade a star. However, Leroux notes that waiting until free agency is often a risky situation and that they could opt to trade for somebody if they can navigate their assets, especially if an opposing star asks for a trade, which seems to be an inevitability in the modern NBA.

Philadelphia has to be careful with how it approaches the next year. Failing to surround Embiid, who will be 30 after next season and has a history with injuries, comes with risk. Leroux calls this next year Philadelphia’s “one bite at the apple” and a “roll of the dice,” which could end poorly if the Sixers don’t add talent that helps propel themselves into the next tier of contending teams.

We have more from Philadelphia:

  • Speaking of Embiid, Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill writes that the saga between Harden and Morey could have a lasting impact on the franchise’s relationship with its MVP. While Embiid is saying all of the right things publicly, Goodwill writes that many around the league expect him to request a trade sooner rather than later and think that Morey is secretly hoping for a full-blown rebuild. Things could get ugly fast when or if Harden reports for training camp with the Sixers, which could have residual effects on Philadelphia’s performance and Embiid’s state of mind, Goodwill writes. Miami and New York are teams that are keeping a close eye on Embiid’s situation, according to Goodwill.
  • In case you missed it this morning, the league is launching an investigation into whether Harden’s comments on Morey implicate either party in engaging in a handshake agreement last summer on a future contract. Marc Stein of Substack (subscriber link) recently discussed the topic before the investigation launched today. If the league determines Harden’s comments referred to a contractual promise from Philadelphia last summer, the Sixers will certainly face league discipline, Stein writes. However, if Harden’s comments are about the Sixers promising to trade him and then reneging on that promise, there is not a violation of league rules. According to Stein, it’s difficult to see Harden being punished for his comments in China, since he didn’t publicly demand a trade and no league rules prohibit him from speaking down to a high-ranking executive in an organization.
  • Stein suggests in the same Substack article that the Sixers still have the upper hand in this situation, given the language in the league’s collective bargaining agreement that limits Harden’s ability to become a free agent next summer if he doesn’t play out the final year of his contract. One thing that could change that, Stein notes, is if Embiid sides with Harden in this ordeal and doesn’t buy into the Sixers’ plan of taking a step back this season before aggressively approaching the 2024 offseason.
  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective (YouTube link) stated that the Clippers and Sixers haven’t had any substantive discussions on a Harden trade, his preferred destination, which echoes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s report from this morning. Goodwill, whose reporting backs this up, writes that Morey actually isn’t stuck on receiving Terance Mann in a deal with the Clippers, which had been reported as one hold-up between the two teams. Morey is believed to be more interested in adding first-round draft picks to his cabinet, according to Goodwill. Stein writes that despite this and the fact that he can’t sign an extension there, or with any team that trades for him, Harden’s desire is still to be dealt to the Clippers.

NBA Launching Investigation Into James Harden’s Comments On Daryl Morey

The NBA is launching an inquiry into James Harden‘s public callout of Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

Harden made waves earlier this week when he called Morey a “liar” during his marketing tour with Adidas in China.

“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, the league office is attempting to gain an understanding of whether or not Harden plans to hold out in 2023/24, which would be in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. The league office is also trying to determine whether the former MVP was referencing past contract discussions with the Sixers that would constitute salary cap circumvention.

ESPN’s report suggests that Harden has privately indicated that his public comments calling Morey a “liar” were a response to the Sixers ending trade discussions regarding Harden and Morey’s expectation that the star guard would report to camp and start the season with the team. Neither the Sixers nor Harden would be in violation of league guidelines if that ends up being the case, Wojnarowski and Shelburne note.

While Harden’s comments were surprising, he never outright made public allegations of a previous handshake agreement being in place with the Sixers on a future contract, Woj writes.

Harden signed a two-year contract worth $68.6MM with a player option in ’23/24 last season, accepting a short-term pay cut on a deal that allowed Philadelphia to bring in P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

After those dealings, the NBA investigated the Sixers and stripped them of two future second-round picks after determining that the team had premature conversations with Tucker and House. However, the league did not uncover any evidence of Harden or the Sixers agreeing to a future contract contingent on his pay cut at that time, according to Wojnarowski.

Harden exercised that ’23/24 player option in June, with an expectation that Morey would work with him to find a trade that would send him to the Clippers, his preferred destination. Wojnarwoski reports that the Sixers and Clippers engaged in numerous conversations but never gained traction on any deal.

Morey, who faced a similar situation with Ben Simmons, isn’t willing to make a trade involving Harden that negatively impacts the Philadelphia’s chances of contending next year.

The Sixers continue to deny that the organization ever agreed upon an illegal future deal with Harden, Wojnarowski adds.

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, McHale, Harden, Morey, Raptors

Kristaps Porzingis‘ plantar fasciitis recovery, though not season-ending, is going to be an extensive process that requires planning by the Celtics, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Porzingis’ injury will sideline him for the entirety of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, and he’ll be out of commission for at least four-to-six weeks.

The Celtics are no stranger to serious injuries taking place during international play. Just last season, Boston lost Danilo Gallinari for the whole year after he tore his ACL in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. The Italian forward never ended up suiting up for the Celtics. Thankfully, in Porzingis’ case, the Celtics are hopeful history won’t repeat itself.

Weiss writes that the next steps for Porzingis include gearing up for the start of training camp, which his injury timeline syncs up with, and playing in Boston’s preseason games. Even though the timeline seems to work out well for Boston and Porzingis, there is still some cause for concern, Weiss opines.

The Celtics didn’t play Al Horford or Robert Williams on back-to-backs last season, but it would be hard to replicate that system with Porzingis unless Williams is ready to play every night. Boston’s approach to Porzingis’ injury goes beyond simply when he plays, but also how the Celtics are able to utilize him on offense and defense. Having Porzingis drop on pick-and-rolls on defense and allowing him to be a spot-up shooter on offense could prevent the 7’3″ Porzingis from suffering further injuries, Weiss writes.

The Celtics traded long-time rotation piece Marcus Smart to bring in Porzingis, a move with an eye toward raising their floor. According to Weiss, Porzingis should be viewed as a franchise cornerstone and his injury is nothing to take lightly.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In an interview with Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett, former Rockets head coach Kevin McHale offered his perspective on the fallout between the SixersJames Harden and Daryl Morey. McHale coached Harden and worked under Morey at the same time between 2012 and 2015 and gave unique insight into the situation. “James wanted a big extension from Philly, and Philly wouldn’t give it to him, and that’s not a Daryl decision,” Morey said. “Daryl’s got a part of that, of course, but that’s an owner decision. So (Harden) was really mad, saying Daryl lied to him, but, you know, maybe they saw Game 7 against the Celtics (9 points on 3-for-11 shooting in a 24-point loss) and said, ‘I’m not interested in that.’” McHale went on to discuss numerous aspects regarding the situation, including how it impacts Joel Embiid and Nick Nurse, as well as detailing his own experiences with coaching Harden. I recommend reading the interview in full, as McHale delves deep into his personal dealings with both members of the fallout.
  • Weiss also offered his perspective on the situation regarding Harden and Morey, juxtaposing the Sixers and the Celtics. Harden marks the latest player to want out of Philadelphia, joining the likes of Markelle Fultz, Horford and Ben Simmons before him. The Celtics haven’t been faced with such issues in a while, but Weiss writes that they have their own problems to take care of. Malcolm Brogdon and then Smart both felt blindsided by the Porzingis trade, Weiss writes, and general manager Brad Stevens needs to make sure he doesn’t lose his locker room after such incidents.
  • The Raptors have the fewest U.S. nationally televised games in the NBA in the 2023/24 season. Toronto has one TNT game and three NBA TV games. This upcoming season marks the fewest U.S. nationally televised games the Raptors have had in a decade, since the start of the Masai Ujiri era, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link).

Latest On James Harden

During an appearance on NBA Today on Tuesday, ESPN insider Ramona Shelburne said that James Harden will continue to ramp up his public feud with the Sixers’ brass until he’s traded (YouTube link).

Harden, who has demanded a trade, publicly called Sixers team president Daryl Morey a “liar” during an appearance in China. Harden is upset that Philadelphia didn’t offer him a lucrative long-term deal and hasn’t subsequently granted his trade request.

“Somebody said to me yesterday, ‘This is only the beginning. This is just the beginning of what James Harden is going to do to make life very uncomfortable for the Philadelphia 76ers going into training camp,'” Shelburne said.

We have more on the Harden-Sixers drama:

  • On the same show, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that Harden’s strategy could very well backfire (Twitter link): “This is a player who wants to continue to play in the NBA, who wants to continue to earn at a high level,” he said. “You don’t help yourself elsewhere in the future getting out of a situation this way.”
  • Joel Embiid has removed references to his affiliation with the Sixers on his social media accounts, ESPN’s Get Up program noted (Twitter link). The Sixers’ biggest concern is that the saga with Harden will lead to an Embiid trade demand.
  • An ugly divorce between Harden and Morey almost had an air of inevitability, Robby Kalland of Uproxx writes. Harden still sees himself as the player he once was, deserving of a full max contract. Meanwhile, Morey is a team president incapable of overlooking the signs of decline and potential red flags due to his cold, analytical nature.
  • It may seem like a long shot now but Harden’s return appears to be the best option for everyone involved, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes.