The James Harden saga has made its way to China, where the 76ers star guard referred to team president Daryl Morey as a “liar,” and said he would never play for the organization again.
That is, as long as Morey is in charge.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden told the crowd at an Adidas event. “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.”
Harden was responding to a question from an individual in the crowd who asked, “What do you think about the (Sixers) claiming to end trade talks and trying to bring you back to the team?”
Harden opted in to a one-year, $35.6 contract at the end of the season prior to making his trade request. Sources say Harden is upset about taking a $15 million pay cut last season, and then being left in the dark this offseason. Stating candidly that Morey “is a liar” is supposedly concerning Morey not offering a long-term maximum-level contract.
Harden’s comments were met with cheers from the Chinese audience. As an aside, back in 2019 Chinese officials had asked NBA commissioner Adam Silver to fire Morey for tweeting an image in support of a Hong Kong protest movement related to China that said “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
Meanwhile, Morey and the Sixers have reportedly ended any trade talks, as Harden supposedly had been seeking a deal to the Clippers.
The two have a long relationship that dates back to their days with the Rockets — but it sure appears to be fractured now.
After Morey seemingly leaked that the Sixers do not intend to trade Harden, a source close to Harden told Sam Amick of The Athletic that Harden was not changing his stance. He still wants out of Philadelphia.
In other words, just as things started to get quiet in the NBA and the world started to shift its focus to football, the drama between Harden and the Sixers has put the league back in the spotlight.
But as Bobby Marks of ESPN noted, if Harden fails to honor his contract with the 76ers, he will be ineligible for free agency in 2024.
Per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player withholding services from his team for more than 30 days “shall be deemed not to have complet[ed] his Player Contract by rendering the playing services called for thereunder.”
So should Harden not report, he couldn’t sign with another team in free agency next summer without the Sixers’ consent.
The 50-year-old Morey was voted Executive of the Year by his peers in 2018, while Harden was also voted MVP that same year. The pair went on to make it to the playoffs eight straight seasons together, but now Morey’s relationship with the superstar guard seems to be irremediable.
Being that Harden is signed under contract to the 76ers at the moment, the future and consequences of his remarks are yet to be seen. That is to say, a superstar refusing to play is nothing new for the Philadelphia team, as Ben Simmons forced his own departure from the team which resulted in Harden’s arrival.
Brandon Santomauro contributed to this report.
Here’s the CBA language for Withholding Services:
Withholding services: A player who withholds playing services called for by a Player Contract for more than thirty (30) days after the start of the last Season covered by his Player Contract shall be deemed not to have… https://t.co/EEJkn73LZG
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 14, 2023