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October 31, 2023

Eytan Shander: The Sixers got it right with this James Harden trade

The Sixers did what needed to be done with the James Harden trade, writes columnist Eytan Shander, and Tyrese Maxey is the biggest winner of all from this move.

Thank goodness.

The inevitable James Harden trade finally happened, and we are all better off as a result. It took longer than most of us wanted, but Daryl Morey clearly waited this out  whether for personal or business reasons — it simply doesn’t matter. The point of it all is that Harden got the hell out of here and I couldn’t be happier.

It’s nothing personal. It never is. But if we are going to fawn over a coach wearing a Flyers hoodie or the latest athlete to rock anything with Allen Iverson’s face on it, then we should recognize what “not wanting to be here” looks like, too. It’s a picture of Harden, beard and all. 

The biggest takeaways from this deal are rather obvious but deserve discussion. The Sixers did exactly what was necessary in getting a malcontent out of the building without sacrificing any remaining value of the player. Nobody benefits more from this trade than Tyrese Maxey and that’s exactly why this was a fantastic trade. It doesn’t even matter who they got back – as addition by subtraction actually works here. 

It’s relevant and important to note as we approach the final year(s) of Joel Embiid’s tenure in Philadelphia, the Sixers need to stop bringing in people who don’t want to be here. The team failed miserably in attempting to pair Embiid with another star player, instead they paired him with a player who disappeared more than dazzled. 

The team is not better off because of anyone they brought back  welcome home, Robert Covington  but they are from a mental standpoint. They have a veteran coach and a budding young (super) star in the making with Maxey. 

That’s really what this is all about and why a lot of us were simply frustrated with the Harden dynamic the past few seasons. It stunted the growth of Maxey – now the most important piece on the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, he's more important than Embiid simply because I don’t know how long the latter will play here. 

The difference might simply be the steps Maxey takes to become a staple at the All-Star Game, or even as an All-NBA selection. He’s that good. Much like Ben Simmons before him, the Harden nonsense took away a lot of discussion about the true talent and value Maxey provides. But it was exhausting, nonetheless. 

It was also embarrassing. The rest of the league knows how great Embiid is and how special Maxey can be, but Philly was a laughingstock. Both Harden and Morey probably felt they were in the right, hunkered down by agents or "yes men." Who knows if the reason for this delay was due to waiting out a third team or simply spite for dragging names through the media, but it took enough to bleed into the regular season. The good news is the Sixers pulled the trigger before it truly started to take over the team. 

I’ve been extra critical of the team when I thought they deserved it, but this was 100 percent the right thing to do and today is the day we all should be happy. It truly doesn’t matter who they got back or who they could get back as I am realistic in the limited value Harden had on the market. Nobody wants him as anything more than a glorified role player. Who in their right mind would ask him to do more than that after watching the playoffs? At the very least, we know Morey is in his right mind by acknowledging that fact. 

Bad teams make stupid decisions and then compound them with more stupid decisions. Another team might try and work things out with Harden, a player who has no interest in trying to play. Anything more than that is just damage to the team and their psyche. They have a brand new coach. It would be ridiculously irresponsible to allow this Harden stuff to carry deeper into the season, even worse to try and make this thing work under Nick Nurse’s first year. 

You may not like who they got back in the deal. The Sixers had no choice but to make this move and plenty of teams still fail by refusing to make the trade or forcing a broken relationship. Credit them for making this obvious decision stick, instead of dragging it out. 

The only scar left from this debacle is a reminder that it was a stupid move to trade for Harden in the first place. Hindsight is your friend. It helps guide future decisions. Morey is a better general manager because of this utter failure. He’s learned about trusting personal relationships over business. Maybe it’s even enough to keep Embiid around for a couple more years.  

Here’s to hindsight, cheers!

Eytan Shander is a long time radio and TV personality in Philadelphia. In addition to his weekly column, you can currently listen and watch him on Fox29’s Good Day and other sports shows. He’s giving betting advice on OddsShopper. A lifetime Eagles fan, Eytan lives just outside the city with his wife.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow