James Harden decided to take a scorched earth approach to the new that the Philadelphia 76ers would end trade talks designed to find him a new team. While addressing a basketball camp in China, Harden called Sixers executive Daryl Morey a “liar” before saying he’d never be part of an organization that employs him again.
There seems to be a very long way to go here, but before we get to a conclusion, the NBA is trying to figure out exactly what Harden meant with his comments. According to Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the league has launched an inquiry that looks to answer one of two questions.
“The league office is believed to be pursuing an understanding of whether Harden was portending a 2023-2024 hold out in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement — or had been referencing past contract discussions with the organization that might constitute salary cap circumvention, sources said,” they wrote.
Harden, per ESPN, apparently claims that his comments had to do with Morey saying he’d trade him be fore changing course over his inability to find a return
The especially damning one would be if there was some sort of handshake agreement in place between the two sides on a future deal. Last summer, Harden famously took less money to help make it easier for the Sixers to sign P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, both of whom were teammates of his back in Houston. The NBA ended up taking away a pair of second-round draft picks from Philadelphia after it was determined that the team held conversations with Tucker and House before it was allowed, but as Shelburne and Wojnarowski noted, the league wasn’t able to find any evidence that Harden might have agreed to a more team-friendly deal with an understanding that he’d get a far more lucrative contract in the future.
Earlier this summer, Harden opted into the second year of the 1+1 contract he signed last offseason and requested a trade, with the Los Angeles Clippers viewed as his preferred destination.