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September 06, 2023

NBA Rumors: Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey assure Sixers they'll ride out the James Harden situation

Embiid and Maxey have given the Sixers their assurances that they're willing to ride out the falling out between Harden and team president Daryl Morey, according to a lengthy report from ESPN.

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Sixers-Joel-Embiid-Tyrese-Maxey_0321 Colleen Claggett/For PhillyVoice

Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, shown walking off the Wells Fargo Center court in March 2022, has reportedly given the Sixers assurance that they'll ride out the James Harden situation.

The falling out between James Harden and Sixers president Daryl Morey, which festered into one of the NBA offseason's biggest messes, has been stuck in a holding pattern with little to no sign of change on the horizon. 

Training camp is a few weeks away, and for right now, the Sixers are still holding on to the expectation that Harden will report for it. But the veteran All-Star wants out, everyone knows it, and they also know that he has a history of causing teams he's lost interest in all kinds of headaches until he gets his way. 

Things might get ugly – uglier than they've already been, that is – or they might not. 

Either way, the Sixers' two other stars, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, have reportedly given the organization their assurances that they're willing to ride this out, wherever it might lead, and even so soon after having gone through a similar situation with Ben Simmons just shy of two years ago. 

In a lengthy feature detailing how exactly the split between Harden and Morey came to be – which started with Harden taking a pay cut last summer to allow the Sixers to compete and then gradually built throughout last season stemming from tensions with former head coach Doc Rivers, an All-Star Game snub, waning performance, second guesses on a future contract, and so on – ESPN's Ramona Shelburne also reported the following on the current state of the Sixers:

This could go the same way. Or not. Which raises the stakes even higher for the Sixers.

Thus far, Embiid has given the franchise assurances he is OK riding out the current drama with Harden, sources said. How long he gives them to resolve the matter remains to be seen.

Maxey has done the same, even waiting on a contract extension this summer so the franchise can preserve its ability to operate under the salary cap and improve the team in the future.

Both have been in touch with Harden throughout, maintaining their personal relationships. Embiid even invited Harden to his wedding in July, sources said.

What's clear to all involved is that this has become a personal matter between Harden and Morey. An emotional one, borne out of frustration and a perceived wrongdoing by a man who had long been Harden's champion. [ESPN]

Since falling short in the second round of the playoffs yet again to Boston – and in the most deflating seven-game fashion possible – back in May, the Sixers have been stuck at a rather unique, frustrating, and wholly exhausting crossroads. 

Embiid finally won NBA MVP but disappeared when it mattered the most, and so did Harden as the co-star, who couldn't field the kind of max contract offer he was looking for in free agency as a result and instead opted into his 2023-24 player option with the Sixers only with the understanding that Morey would work with him to facilitate a trade. 

That's yet to happen, despite some initial though eventually pulled back on trade talks, which upset Harden, led to him calling Morey "a liar" at an Adidas Basketball event in China, and landed him a hefty $100,000 fine after an investigation into those comments from the NBA

Further causing unrest among the Sixers fan base, and speculation from the basketball world at large, were comments from Embiid at the Uninterrupted Film Festival earlier this summer, where he reinforced his desire to win a championship, but with the catch of "I don't know where that's going to be, whether it's in Philly or anywhere else." – said with the Harden situation simultaneously devolving in the background, leading to the belief that Embiid too might have one foot out the door, or at the very least, is running short on patience. 

Maxey also weighed on the situation through his "Maxey on the Mic" podcast recently, calling back to the Simmons saga and this not being the Sixers' "first rodeo."

"I will say this about the situation though: To each his own," Maxey said. "James, he's a professional. He's doing something for a reason, and you just have to sit back and understand what he's doing as a friend. But then as a teammate and as someone a part of the organization that I'm with right now, you have to prepare for whether James is gonna be there or not gonna be there. 

"That's just the nature of it. That's really just the nature of it, and it happens. It's not like – it's crazy to say this – but it's not our first rodeo, honestly. That's funny to say, but it's life."

But it's also a situation that has left Morey, Embiid, and the Sixers with their backs to the wall and short on obvious answers for keeping their contending window open.

Maxey's continued development and upward trajectory, however, could be the biggest wild card in the face of everything, especially with him being due up for a new contract.

"I can't let that stop the progress," Maxey added. "I can't let that stop what we're doing, I can't let that affect myself, and if anyone's taught me that, it's him [Harden]. That's the funny part about it. I know if he's not gonna play, he's gonna be rooting for me to be the best version of myself because that's just the type of brother he is. He's a great person, and we love him for that."

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