The Sixers chaos that the New York Knicks are rooting for got off to a good start this offseason after James Harden opted into his player option for 2023-24 to work on a trade. Harden’s trade request has since been outshined by Damian Lillard’s request to be traded, but it seems as if Harden is still intent on leaving Philadelphia.
Harden attended Michael Rubin’s White Party and was seen hanging out with Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Sixers owner Josh Harris, which prompted Philadelphia fans to believe that the 33-year-old would be staying put in Pennsylvania. That thought was short-lived.
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick (subscription required), Harden’s desire to be traded hasn’t changed. Amick reported that trade talks between the Sixers and Clippers (Harden’s desired landing spot) have stopped due to Daryl Morey’s high asking price. Harden may still want to leave Philadelphia, but Daryl Morey seems to have other plans.
James Harden-Sixers drama could benefit Knicks in their pursuit of a star
Joel Embiid recently revealed to Showtime’s Rachel Nichols that he was admittedly disappointed when James Harden requested a trade and that he hopes the guard’s “mindset will be changed.”
Sam Amick went into detail about why Harden’s mindset is still the same:
"Harden’s stance has not changed, a source close to him told The Athletic. He still wants to leave Philadelphia. He’s still upset with how Morey handled his situation heading into possible free agency last month. And even with the recent revelation that Harden attended the same NBPA party as Sixers co-star Joel Embiid and former Sixers owner Michael Rubin in Vegas, he’s still determined to start next season in a Clippers jersey."
Morey, who was the Rockets’ GM when Harden was in Houston, appears to be against dealing the former MVP anytime soon. Harden has a clear desire to go to Los Angeles, and if he’s still on Philadelphia’s roster come training camp, his request to be traded could turn into a situation eerily similar to Ben Simmons’ when he was with the Sixers.
Why might Morey be against trading Harden? Well, for starters, Philadelphia doesn’t owe Harden anything. As much as he wants to go to the Clippers, the Sixers have to think about their future and get something worthy in return for him. Morey’s asking price might be too high, but he also has to think about Embiid. The 2022-23 MVP has expressed his desire for Harden to stay in Philadelphia, and the Sixers have to prioritize building a win-now roster around Embiid.
Harden had a couple of great games against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals but fell flat when it mattered most. But what other route is there for Philadelphia to take? It’s either trade Harden and lose a key piece of the roster or keep him around and hope that the 2023-24 season will result in a banner. The Sixers don’t have the cap space to make major moves to appease Embiid.
Joel Embiid has been fiercely loyal to Philadelphia since he was drafted No. 3 overall in 2014, but another disappointing season could be what pushes him to request a trade himself. The 29-year-old is playing the best basketball of his career and time is ticking. And it goes without saying that if the star center wants out, Leon Rose will be there to swoop in.