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August 16, 2023

What they're saying: The James Harden saga is only getting started

And Sixers fan are the ones who lose because of it.

Daryl Morey and the Sixers were going to work with James Harden to trade him, and now they don't want to

Harden is upset and called Morey a liar, and in China of all places. 

Joel Embiid removed Philadelphia from his Twitter profile. 

And Josh Harris is nowhere to be seen because he's occupied with his new toy in the NFL's Washington Commanders, while the rest of the ownership group tries to push through a divisive arena plan in Center City

Just about everything regarding the Sixers – save for maybe Tyrese Maxey – is on fire right now, and we may only be getting started, because...

Harden is going to make this uncomfortable

Said national reporter Ramona Shelburne on ESPN's NBA Today earlier this week:

"This is just the beginning of what James Harden is going to do to make life very uncomfortable for the Philadelphia 76ers going into training camp, and I think the expectation with Harden is – Ben Simmons, they went through this with Ben Simmons. He didn't show up to camp, he left money on the table. That's not going to happen here with James Harden. This is going to be very uncomfortable. 

"Ben Simmons didn't say anything. Ben Simmons stayed home, right? If you heard anything, it was not loud. This was with a microphone 'Let me repeat myself,' and the phrase I kept hearing was this is just the beginning. So I think the sixers have to ask themselves 'What are we prepared for? How do we handle this?' Is there any way that they can get through this and still have a productive season?" [ESPN]

Feeding into that, league insider Adrian Wojnarowski added prior that the next month and a half leading into and during Sixers training camp will be a matter of how much pain Harden is willing to inflict on Morey, the organization, and even himself until he gets what he wants. 

So the worst is likely still ahead unless something dramatic shifts. 

But where does this even go?

Because as far as progress on an actual trade goes, there doesn't seem to even be any.

Getting Harden to the Clippers, right now, appears to have gone nowhere and interest around the rest of the league seems neutral at best. 

But that does put pressure on Harden to prove he's still the caliber of player worth paying the lucrative deal he's after, while the Sixers exist under their own form of it in trying not to waste another year of Embiid and keep their window to contend open. 

It's as bizarre as it is awkward, and maybe the solution still lies in both parties working together as contentious as things are right now.

Wrote The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor:

But the pressure on the Sixers is immense. No matter how things play out with Harden, this could be another year wasted for Embiid. Embiid has been through tanking, drafting busts, a GM running a burner account, a no. 1 pick forgetting how to shoot, a lottery pick with a peanut allergy, acquiring then trading Jimmy Butler, and now a second All-Star demanding a trade. Embiid has turned himself into an MVP, one of the game’s most dominant forces, but the circumstances around him could lead him to becoming another one of the greats to never win it all.

It felt poetic for Embiid and Harden to have a chance to erase those questions about their legacies together. But it’s only poetic in a tragic type of way, something Morey couldn’t have seen coming to this extreme with Harden potentially going all out to make this a miserable situation.

The NBA sent a memo to teams regarding Damian Lillard’s trade demand out of Portland, saying any comments made privately or publicly suggesting Dame wouldn’t play for his new team could lead to discipline. Executives around the league wonder what could be coming next involving Harden if things do get worse. But no matter what stunts he pulls, Harden’s remaining leverage lies in his on-court performance, whether it’s to get out of Philadelphia or sign a lucrative contract next summer. [The Ringer]

But in the end...

Philly, as in Sixers fan – both here in the Delaware Valley and across the world – all lose. 

Whether Harden actually does get traded, stays put and makes life hell, or remains and bites his tongue on not wanting to be here, the city and the fan base are ultimately the ones left holding the bag on this. 

And it's exhausting. 

I mean, you can feel it, right?

The Eagles are in training camp with title aspirations, the Phillies are making (granted, rather frustratingly) their playoff push, and the Flyers are committed to a full-on rebuild with greater transparency and a potential superstar waiting on the horizon over in Russia. 

That's all exciting and inspires hope or pride or a mix of both. 

The Sixers? They hit the second-round wall again in maybe the most-deflating fashion possible, did little to improve the team over the summer, and got stuck in a self-inflicted holding pattern with maybe both parts of their star duo (depending on how you interpret Tweets) that may have even knocked the dominoes down into leaving the team with nothing in the end. 

The Sixers are grabbing national attention for all the wrong reasons write now, and locally? Anger, dissatisfaction, and progress toward increasing apathy, with the latter being a feeling no NBA team ever wants to have toward it.

Wrote Liberty Ballers' Paul Hudrick on the city's current feelings toward the Sixers:

Wouldn’t it be cool to be a fan of a team that avoided drama AND won?! Or really, you could deal with the drama if the team could advance past the second round a time or two.

This falls on everyone. From Josh Harris to Morey to Harden to Joel Embiid on down.

(Well, not Tyrese Maxey. Why can’t everyone just be like Tyrese Maxey?)

Harden is trying to burn the Sixers to the ground in order to force a trade. Morey is seemingly trying to put out a wildfire with a water gun. Meanwhile, the fans are the ones engulfed in flames and suffocating from the smoke.

The drama has kept fans enticed despite the team’s failures, but that’s wearing thin. At this point, fans are going from apoplectic to apathetic.

Maybe Harden has a come-to-Jesus moment or Morey finds his ideal trade. Until then, we’re all trying to find the guy that did this. [Liberty Ballers]

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