August 22, 2023
The NBA is investigating what provoked James Harden to call Sixers president Daryl Morey "a liar" last week, turning what was already an increasingly tense situation into possibly an active minefield.
But so far, Harden is maintaining that his side of the story has everything to do with how "quickly" Morey said he would be traded out of Philadelphia.
As part of NBA probe into his “liar” comment, James Harden told league investigators he was referring to Daryl Morey telling Harden he will trade him “quickly” following the $35.6 million opt in for 2023-24, per sources. The 76ers’ stance now is they expect to keep Harden.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 21, 2023
Over the weekend, ESPN reported that the NBA had launched an inquiry into Harden and the Sixers after Harden, while speaking at an Adidas Basketball event in China – a country that was already conveniently not a fan of Morey to begin with – said the following about the Sixers' president of basketball ops:
“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 the ESPN report, the league is out to determine what exactly Harden meant by that. Was it threat of a holdout, which would be a violation of the league's and the players association's collective bargaining agreement? Or was it reference to past contract discussions and a possible "handshake deal" that the Sixers reneged on and could've been considered as potential salary cap circumvention?
Regardless, after taking what was seen as a significant pay cut last season only to end up with another playoff failure, Harden wanted out, and only picked up his 2023-24 player option with the Sixers back in June with the understanding that Morey and the front office would work with him to facilitate a trade – preferably to the L.A. Clippers.
But the summer went by, trade talks never really went anywhere with Los Angeles – or any other team for that matter – and the Sixers ended up pulling back on discussions with the expectation that Harden would still report for training camp in September.
He's since appeared to have taken major exception to that, even though if you go back through what has so far been reported or outright publically stated, there's never been a deadline put on the Sixers to trade him by.
Morey's stance throughout has also been that he'll only execute a Harden trade when the return runs in line with the title aspirations the Sixers are hoping to keep alive with Joel Embiid at the forefront.
Said Morey in an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic last month:
"Right now, unfortunately, he does prefer to be somewhere else. I do have a long relationship with him, and I am attempting to honor that. But the reality is if we do look at a trade, it will be for one of two things. It's either going to be for a player who helps us be right there like we were last year. Up 3-2 on one of the best teams in the East, the Celtics. Obviously, we didn’t get it done, but James was a big part of why we got it to 3-2. Or we are going to do something where we get enough draft picks or things like that in a deal, such that we can then turn those into a player who can be a running mate with Joel.
"If we don’t get either a very good player or something we can turn into a very good player, then we're just not going to do it. If James were to turn his mind around, we would all be thrilled. You've heard Joel's comments about that. But at this moment he prefers to be traded, and we are attempting to honor that.” [97.5]
But so far, nothing doing, with Harden only growing more impatient and the league knocking on the organization's door for the second time in as many summers.
Follow Nick on Twitter: @itssnick
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports