Daryl Morey

Sixers Notes: Harden, Melton, Covington, George

In the days leading up to his return to Philadelphia on Wednesday, James Harden wasn’t eager to speculate about how he might be received by his former home crowd, as Law Murray of The Athletic writes, telling reporters that he “didn’t care” and that he was more concerned about helping the Clippers get out of their recent slump.

Harden accomplished what he set out to on Wednesday, finishing with 16 points and 14 assists in a 108-107 win over the Sixers. He was on the receiving end of plenty of boos from the Philadelphia faithful over the course of the evening and admitted after the game that it didn’t come as a surprise. However, he also contended he didn’t understand the motivation for those boos.

“I expected it,” Harden said, according to Murray. “They don’t know what it was about. But I expected it. So it is what it is. I don’t even know why they were booing, I don’t think. You ask them. They probably don’t know why they were booing.

“… For me, personally, I feel like I did everything I needed to do in the sense of, in the year prior, taking myself off of the max to help the team get better,” Harden continued. “For this city, you know what I mean? And for myself, obviously. But to win a championship. So things didn’t work out. I wanted to get paid. They weren’t talking. So it is what it is. You move on, everybody’s happy, life is good. And I mean, everybody’s looking forward.”

Harden accepted a $33MM salary rather than picking up his $47MM player option in 2022/23, but the boos on Wednesday suggest that move didn’t earn him enough goodwill in Philadelphia for Sixers fans to forgive and forget his decision to demand a trade a year later.

Harden, who blasted Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey last summer due to his belief that Morey failed to keep certain promises, replied, “Hell no” on Wednesday when asked if he believes he’ll ever reconcile with the veteran executive, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden also said he hasn’t stayed in touch with 76ers star Joel Embiid.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • The Sixers’ loss on Wednesday was a controversial one, with referee crew chief Kevin Scott admitting after the game that a foul should have been called on a drive to the basket by Kelly Oubre on the game’s final play, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Oubre and head coach Nick Nurse expressed their frustrations to the game’s referees after the final buzzer and had to be pulled away by assistant coaches (Twitter video link). Oubre apologized to the refs during his post-game media session for “losing his cool.”
  • Nurse told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game that he’s optimistic that both De’Anthony Melton (back) and Robert Covington (knee) can return before the end of the regular season, tweets Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports. Of the two, Covington is closer to getting back on the court, according to Nurse.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer is skeptical that the Sixers’ reported interest in Paul George will result in the star forward ending up in Philadelphia, writing that it looks more like a leverage play as the free-agent-to-be discusses a new deal with the Clippers.
  • In case you missed it, Nurse also discussed Embiid’s recovery from knee surgery on Wednesday.

Warriors Attempted To Get Lakers To Consider LeBron Trade

Prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline, the Warriors tried – unsuccessfully – to convince the Lakers to consider sending superstar forward LeBron James to Golden State, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

The Warriors’ pursuit of James occurred at multiple levels, per ESPN’s reporting. Klutch Sports client Draymond Green contacted agent Rich Paul in an effort to solicit his help getting LeBron on board with a move to Golden State, while Warriors owner Joe Lacob reached out to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. touched base with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka.

Ultimately, the same answer came back from all involved parties — the Lakers had no interest in trading James, and the four-time MVP had no interest in going anywhere, as Paul stated six days ahead of the deadline.

As Wojnarowski and Shelburne outline, the Warriors’ pursuit stemmed from the fact that James seemed to be frustrated by the Lakers’ up-and-down first half. He hinted at those frustrations in some comments to the media and posted a cryptic tweet consisting only of hourglass emoji.

When Lacob reached out to Buss, she told the Warriors owner that while she had no interest in trading LeBron, that she would check in with him and Paul to gauge their thoughts.

Sources tell ESPN that Buss has “operated with the mindset that she wants her star players content with the franchise,” so if he had been unhappy with his situation in Los Angeles, the team would have been open to changing its stance. That wasn’t the case, however, as Paul told both Lacob and Dunleavy that his top client wanted to remain a Laker.

ESPN’s report doesn’t include any details about the package the Warriors would have offered for James, but since the goal was to pair him with Stephen Curry and Green was involved in the recruiting, we can at least safely assume those two wouldn’t have been on the table. Beyond that, there are many permutations Golden State could have explored — an offer involving Chris Paul and/or Andrew Wiggins, plus prospects and draft picks, seems most likely, given that the Dubs reportedly weren’t interested in moving Klay Thompson.

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, the Warriors weren’t the only team to check in on James prior to the trade deadline. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey also inquired on LeBron’s availability, though that’s a common practice for Morey, who also contacted the Suns to ask about Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and/or Bradley Beal, per ESPN.

As ESPN’s duo explains, the Warriors situation was a little different because it began at the ownership level and included a conversation with Paul, whereas Morey is known around the league for making “bold” long-shot trade inquiries. When Morey asked the Lakers about LeBron, Pelinka responded by inquiring about the availability of reigning MVP Joel Embiid, which ended their brief conversation, sources tell Woj and Shelburne.

James will have a decision to make this summer on a 2024/25 player option worth $51.4MM. While he’s considered likely to either pick up that option or sign a new deal with the Lakers, suitors like the Warriors and Sixers may get a chance to pursue him again at that time.

Atlantic Notes: Dolan, Embiid, Sixers, J. Porter

Knicks owner James Dolan has been accused of sexual assault, according to reports from Ben Sisario of The New York Times and Marjorie Hernandez and Selim Algar of The New York Post.

Dolan’s accuser, Kellye Croft, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday claiming that he pressured her into unwanted sex with him and that he coordinated an encounter with Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly sexually assaulted her. Croft worked as a masseuse on a 2013 tour headlined by The Eagles that also featured Dolan’s band, J.D. and the Straight Shot. The incidents with Dolan and Weinstein are said to have taken place in 2013 and 2014.

One of Dolan’s attorneys issued a statement saying that there is “absolutely no merit” to the allegations: “Kellye Croft and James Dolan had a friendship. Mr. Dolan always believed Ms. Croft to be a good person and is surprised she would agree to these claims. Bottom line, this is not a he said/she said matter and there is compelling evidence to back up our position. We look forward to proving that in court.”

Asked today about the lawsuit, commissioner Adam Silver didn’t have much to tell reporters so soon after the publication of the reports, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. “I saw the article and don’t know anything else about it other than I read the article so we’ll stand by and wait to find out more information,” Silver said.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers star Joel Embiid, who returned on Monday from a three-game injury absence, said he’s not worried about meeting the 65-game requirement to qualify for end-of-season awards such as MVP. “It doesn’t matter how many games I play,” Embiid said (story via ESPN.com). “The goal is to be healthy the rest of the year.” Embiid isn’t on the injury report for Tuesday’s contest vs. Denver, so it appears he’ll square off on the second night of a back-to-back set against fellow MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.
  • Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer takes a look at how Daryl Morey‘s and Nick Nurse‘s time together in Houston laid the groundwork for them to reunite with the Sixers. Nurse tells Mizell that he believes his history with Morey has given him a leg up during his first year in Philadelphia. “Where the relationship enhances what’s happened is the speed at which we can move things along,” the head coach said. “Because we know each other, it’s not this, ‘Where’s this guy coming from?’ six-month process. That part I think has been a big plus.”
  • Jontay Porter didn’t open the season on the Raptors‘ roster, but the two-way big man has appeared in each of the team’s past seven games and earned his first start on Monday vs. Boston. Given how Porter has performed so far in Toronto, he could turn out to be a developmental win at a key position for an organization that has lacked those under-the-radar success stories in recent years, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

Sixers Extend Daryl Morey Through 2027/28

10:22am: The extension is official, the Sixers have announced in a press release.

“Daryl is one of the best front office executives in sports and I greatly value his leadership,” team owner Josh Harris said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to have reached an agreement to extend his contract and look forward to working together to maximize our chances of competing for an NBA title.”

10:07am: The Sixers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey have agreed on an extension that will keep Morey under contract through the 2027/28 season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Morey has been the head of basketball operations in Philadelphia since the 2020 offseason, following his departure from his longtime position in Houston’s front office.

The 76ers went 154-82 (.653) in Morey’s first three seasons on the job, winning a playoff series each spring before being eliminated in the second round of the postseason. The team is off to a 16-7 start this fall.

Drafting Tyrese Maxey and extending Joel Embiid have been among the highlights of Morey’s tenure in Philadelphia. He also had to navigate Ben Simmons‘ trade request, eventually sending the former No. 1 overall pick to Brooklyn in a multi-player deal for James Harden, who subsequently demanded a trade of his own and was dealt to the Clippers last month.

While he was waiting to be traded, Harden referred to Morey as a “liar,” claiming that the Sixers’ front office hadn’t delivered on their promise to resolve his situation quickly. Given today’s news, it doesn’t appear that Harden’s criticisms of Morey negatively impacted the executive’s standing in the organization at all.

One of Morey’s other notable recent moves was hiring Nick Nurse to replace Doc Rivers as the 76ers’ head coach this past spring. As Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), Morey’s new extension means that his and Nurse’s contracts are now aligned — both will expire in 2028.

Morey’s initial contract with the Sixers was for five years, so the extension will add three new years, notes Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports (Twitter link).

James Harden On What Went Wrong In Philadelphia And How He Got To The Clippers

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.”

Sixers Notes: Trade Targets, Harden, Maxey, Embiid, Harris, Martin

Raptors forward OG Anunoby is a player to watch as the Sixers try to remake their roster following the James Harden trade, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype says in a conversation with Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Scotto states that Nick Nurse is a huge fan of Anunoby after coaching him in Toronto, and he would be a good fit with the current roster on both offense and defense. Scotto also points out that the Sixers would have plenty of cap room to re-sign Anunoby when he becomes a free agent next summer.

Sources tell Scotto that Philadelphia may eye a few other trade targets such as Bulls guard Zach LaVine, Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic. He hears the Sixers aren’t interested in pursuing Karl-Anthony Towns to play alongside Joel Embiid because he hasn’t meshed well with Rudy Gobert on the Timberwolves. Bulls swingman DeMar DeRozan would provide scoring punch, but he also brings spacing issues to the offense. Scotto doesn’t believe Philadelphia currently has interest in either Raptors forward Pascal Siakam or Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant.

Pompey doesn’t see another ball-dominant scorer as an ideal fit because of Tyrese Maxey‘s strong play to open the season. Anunoby’s defense and Bogdanovic’s outside shooting would be more valuable, according to Pompey, and they’re likely to cost less than some of the other hypothetical targets.

Scotto and Pompey offer more on the Sixers:

  • The Clippers‘ offer that president of basketball operations Daryl Morey accepted for James Harden was the only legitimate one he received, according to Pompey. He speculates that the organization wanted to unload Harden before he was reintroduced to the team and possibly caused a distraction, and there was concern that L.A.’s interest in Harden might lessen if the team got off to a strong start. Scotto hears that the Knicks called about Harden but never made a serious offer, while the Heat weren’t involved at all.
  • The Sixers believe it will take a max contract to keep Maxey in free agency next summer, Scotto hears. The fourth-year guard has excelled as the leader of the offense with Harden sidelined, but Scotto believes the organization has to determine whether he’s best suited as a point guard or shooting guard.
  • Embiid is “monitoring the situation” to see if Morey can build a legitimate contender before making any decisions about his future, Pompey states. The Sixers are currently optimistic about keeping him happy, but Pompey warns that another early playoff exit could prompt him to ask for a trade during the offseason.
  • The Sixers will be interested in re-signing Tobias Harris, but they can’t give him close to a max contract because of how much they’ll have to pay Maxey and possibly others, Pompey adds. He points out that Philadelphia has Harris’ Bird rights, which will help with his next contract but would eat into the club’s cap room.
  • Sources tell Scotto that the Sixers are “intrigued” with Kenyon Martin Jr., who was part of the return from the Clippers in the Harden deal, and may consider re-signing him next summer if he plays well.

Daryl Morey Happy With Return In James Harden Trade

It took more than four months, but the Sixers got the assets they were seeking when James Harden first asked for a trade in late June, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey tells Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Morey said the focus was on acquiring expiring contracts and draft capital in any Harden deal. The trade with the Clippers brought back Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington and Kenyon Martin Jr., all of whom will be free agents next summer, along with a collection of draft assets that stretch through 2029.

“We set a bar in June, really, when James requested the trade and said, ‘Look, if we can get it to here, that should be what generally allows you to get out and get a player,” Morey said. “Having a player like Jrue (Holiday) go (to the Boston Celtics) for a similar package was sort of validating on that. So we set the bar, and obviously it came together where the Clippers met that price.”

What the Sixers didn’t get is Terance Mann, who was reportedly the sticking point for L.A. throughout the negotiations. According to Pompey, the Clippers initially offered one unprotected first-round pick and a pick swap along with the expiring contracts. With Morey unable to pry Mann loose, he settled for more draft capital instead.

Appearing Wednesday on the Ball Don’t Lie podcast, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports suggested that Morey was reluctant to accept the final version of the trade, but was forced to by ownership, which told him to “get a deal done now.”

Speaking with Pompey, Morey downplayed the report, saying team owners have a role in virtually every NBA trade.

“Ownership, I can only speak to my side. I don’t know how much their side was involved,” Morey said. “Our side was straightforward, the same: Always keep them abreast of our plans, making recommendations for when we make trades, and they signed off on them. It was a very standard trade, so I didn’t quite follow that reporting.”

Morey also expressed hope that his long relationship with Harden, which fell apart in spectacular fashion this summer, can eventually be repaired.

“Look, I think time heals,” Morey said. “He wanted to be traded and we did follow through on what he wanted. … Honestly, I think he chose to handle things certain ways that I wouldn’t have. He might feel the same about us, that we should have moved quicker or whatever. Look, he’s a great player and he’s going to do great things for the Clippers. P.J. (Tucker) as well. I’m glad they’re in the West.”

Sixers Notes: New Additions, Oubre, Trade Targets, Harden

The four players the Sixers acquired in their James Harden trade with the Clippers – Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington, and Kenyon Martin Jr. – arrived at the team’s facility on Wednesday but are unlikely to play on Thursday vs. Toronto, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Saturday’s home game against Phoenix is a more realistic target for those newcomers, Mizell adds.

Meanwhile, even though Harden hadn’t played yet this season for the 76ers, the deal removes a starter from the team’s lineup — since arriving in Philadelphia in 2022, P.J. Tucker had started all 89 regular season and playoff games he’d played for the club.

Forward Kelly Oubre will start in Tucker’s place for now, head coach Nick Nurse told reporters on Wednesday, but that may not be a permanent change. As Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports explains (via Twitter), Nurse has said he likes the spark Oubre has provided off the bench, so he may want to return Oubre to that role once Morris, Batum, Covington, and Martin are up to speed, with one of those ex-Clippers moving into the starting five.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype and Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscriber link) each identified some players the Sixers may target on the trade market using their newly acquired draft assets, weighing the likelihood of those players becoming available this season and evaluating whether Philadelphia has the pieces to land them. A pair of Bulls (Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan) and Raptors (Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby) show up on both lists, which also feature a few other names.
  • The draft assets the Sixers are receiving and their ability to move on from the Harden saga have been frequently cited in the last 36 hours as the most important aspects of Philadelphia’s trade with the Clippers. But the deal will also improve the 76ers’ depth, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who notes that Tucker’s role had declined, Filip Petrusev wasn’t ready for rotation minutes as a rookie, and Harden – of course – had yet to actually suit up for a game this season.
  • When Harden showed up for the Sixers’ team flight last Wednesday after the team asked him to stay behind in Philadelphia and he wasn’t permitted to board the plane, it “inflamed the situation” on both sides and represented the “final straw” in the club’s efforts to reincorporate him, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Trade discussions with the Clippers resumed a couple days later and picked up steam after that, per Shelburne.
  • Shelburne’s story on Harden’s final days is chock full of interesting tidbits, including the fact that Harden communicated directly with head coach Nick Nurse, general manager Elton Brand, and owner Josh Harris after making his trade request, but would only communicate with president Daryl Morey through agent Michael Silverman.
  • Shelburne also hears from sources that Harden’s camp became convinced ahead of free agency in June that if he declined his option, Morey and the 76ers only intended to offer him a two-year deal with a second-year team option. The team, wary of gun-jumping after being penalized for it in 2022, insisted it would make a strong offer once free agency opened, but Harden “didn’t buy it,” Shelburne writes.

Sixers Rumors: Embiid, Knicks, Harden, Morey, Smart

Teams around the NBA are paying close attention to how James Harden‘s stalemate with the Sixers gets resolved, since failing to extract a fair return for the former MVP could adversely affect the franchise’s relationship with its other former MVP, Joel Embiid. As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer details (subscription required), the division-rival Knicks are one team keeping an eye on the situation in Philadelphia.

Sources tell Pompey that acquiring Embiid would be the top priority for Knicks president Leon Rose if the star center becomes available and that New York would be willing to offer three of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Evan Fournier, along with two or three first-round picks.

Pompey himself acknowledges that the Sixers would likely get stronger offers than that for Embiid and wouldn’t want to trade him to another Atlantic team anyway. It’s a moot point for now, since there’s no indication Embiid will be available for trade anytime soon.

Still, Pompey stresses that the way the 76ers settle the Harden standoff could have a ripple effect on their superstar center, and the Knicks aren’t the only team monitoring the situation to see what happens. Meanwhile, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Post that Embiid is one of at least three potential star trade targets the Knicks are surveilling, along with Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • As of Monday afternoon, it remained unclear “when and if” Harden plans to return to Philadelphia, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (Twitter video link). “The organization has taken him at his word that he’s away on a personal matter, that there is something he has to attend to,” Wojnarowski said. “But how long will they do that is certainly a question.”
  • Wojnarowski suggests that if Harden still hasn’t reported back to the team by its regular season opener on Thursday, it’s possible the 76ers will seek ” more clarity and a timetable” for his return. They’d would be within their rights to fine him $390K for each missed game if they’re not satisfied with his answer, Woj adds.
  • Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday that he has been in touch with Harden during his absence, Pompey writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I did reach out to him the other day … just to text like I would with anybody,” Nurse said. “See how he’s doing. See if he’s all right. He did text me back.” Nurse added that he didn’t get into the specifics of Harden’s potential return during his text exchange with the guard, since he “was just making sure he’s OK.”
  • Some people around the league who spoke to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com don’t envy the spot the Sixers and Daryl Morey are in with Harden. One front office source speculated that Morey is “not going to survive this.” Another source who has been in contact with the Clippers and other teams told Bulpett, “Daryl’s trying to steal people in trades, and nobody’s going for it. First thing, Harden’s not the same guy he was three or four years ago, so his market’s not that great. And Morey’s trying to get so much, but he’s not going to get it.”
  • Javonte Smart, who had his Exhibit 10 contract converted to a two-way deal over the weekend, spoke to reporters on Monday about getting a regular season opportunity with the team (Twitter video link via Pompey). Smart indicated that if the Sixers want him to play primarily with the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League, he’ll view that as a chance to get regular playing time and to “get better.”

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.”