NBA players are moving around with more freedom than ever before. Stars are forcing themselves out of places that they don’t want to play at, agents have much more power within organizations where their star clients reside, and player-coach-general manager relationships are essential to land the person or persons for franchises looking to compete for championships.
Take that last line, and let it marinate for a second…
There’s a game within the game that many fans are not very keen of, nor do they care to understand. But it’s there. Rich Paul, friend of LeBron James, owner of Klutch Sports, is considered the most powerful sports agent today. When he wants his client moved, he gets it done. And when general managers have a love for a player, they do whatever it takes to get their guy as well. They go hand in hand.
Such as in the curious case of James Harden and Daryl Morey.
Hey, Sixers fans, if you haven’t noticed yet: James Harden and Daryl Morey are a package deal
And they are just two thirds of the package.
If one can recall history involving Harden and the players that he played with, especially in Houston, one common theme always seemed to come to fruition: the other players left. Not Harden. Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, etc.
Doesn’t seem too fishy, right? Star player wants his way, he gets it. Happens every year. But, when the common denominator is actually the one who isn’t getting the franchise over the hump, one must start to step back and analyze why isn’t the elephant in the room being addressed?
Because he is the spook on the court.
A person sent in to shift a culture from within the walls, for the benefit of whom they are sent from.
Harden is that spook.
The analogy comes from the 1969 book written by Sam Greenlee, which tells the fictional story of Dan Freeman, the first black CIA officer, and of the CIA’s history of training persons and political groups who later used their specialized training in gathering intelligence, political subversion, and guerrilla warfare against the CIA. A fabulous novel. If you haven’t read it, i would encourage anyone to sit down a spend some time on the weekend with the story.
Freeman used the knowledge, tactics, and training acquired the CIA to declare war against it. I believe that the same thing is happening right now with Philadelphia.
Let’s go back to the summer of 2012. Oklahoma City is coming off of a five game mini-sweep at the hands of a Miami Heat team built on the backs of this generation’s latest iteration of super talent on one team. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, known as the “Heatles”, won the first of two titles together, beating a young Kevin Durant, Russell Wesbrook, and 2012 Sixth Man of the year, James Harden. Harden disappeared in that Finals series, averaging 12.4 points a game, on 37 percent shooting from the field.
A precursor of what was to come.
When it came time to go back to the negotiating table, OKC was not willing to bend to Harden’s demands of paying him elite money for what they considered James to be: a high volume scorer from the bench. Besides, they had once in a lifetime talent in Durant and Westbrook. To the Thunder front office and Sam Presti, Harden was expendable.
So, to the shock of NBA circles and fans everywhere, in the fall of that year, James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets. A young general manager by the name of Daryl Morey, landed a big fish for the struggling Rockets franchise. A young scorer who can fill up the stat sheet, and put butts in the seats of the Toyota Center.
The rest is history.
Harden would go on to become a ten time all star, three time scoring champion, including a insane 36.1 points per game, the highest since Kobe Bryant’s 35.4 points per game back in 2005, and second highest to Michael Jordan’s 37.1 points per game in 1986, 2016-2017 assists leader, seven time All-NBA, 2017-2018 NBA MVP, and named one of the 75 greatest players in NBA history.
Most importantly, in the words of Daryl Morey when he stepped down as Rockets GM back in October of 2020:
“James Harden changed my life.”
Again: let those words marinate.
Morey’s claim to fame, is the Harden signing. James Harden’s rise to stardom came from Morey giving him the keys of the Rockets kingdom. They are intricately tied to each other in their respective careers.
Which makes sense now when Harden was asked about his future with the Sixers after Thursday’s loss, Harden responded with, “I’ll be here.”
What would give a player that has a history of playoff failures such a boost of confidence within an organization that has a fanbase which is desperate for a NBA championship?
Daryl Morey. Why? James Harden is here for a reason.
To change the culture of the Sixers into the vision of “Moreyball”.
And it all centers around The Beard.
Morey is an analytics monster — all 3s, layups, and free throws is his mantra. James fits that ascetic perfectly. But, it’s this ascetic that may have dire ramifications upon the Sixers for the future. This is why James Harden HAS to go.
And maybe Daryl Morey as well.
Philadelphia has a star to build around: Joel Embiid. Morey’s style of play, which flows through the former MVP, will eventually clash, especially if the Harden that Morey remembers isn’t who he is anymore. The Sixers still have yet to put the proper pieces around Embiid that would fully unlock his immense skills. Doc Rivers was hired to unlock those gifts, but with Morey heading the Sixers operation, a conflict of basketball interest may be brewing between the two. While Doc Rivers will be back for a third season with Philadelphia, let’s be very clear about one thing:
Time is running out on Rivers’ tenure as head coach. Much more quickly than we believe.
Look no further than the way that Harden completely flagged the question about the way that plays are called by Doc in his interview after Game 6:
Reporter: “You said the ball didn’t get back to you; does the coach calls plays to try and get the ball to you?”
Harden: “Next question.”
Speaks volumes when you know the history: If James Harden doesn’t like something, James Harden will shut down until he gets what he wants. And he knows who he has in his corner.
Doc may be set up for a fall. But who would be the replacement to right the ship in the event of a Rivers firing?
The third piece of the puzzle, who Morey experienced loads of success with, who also champions the Moreyball mantra.
At the writing of this article, D’Antoni is considered to be a “strong” candidate for the Hornets head coaching position. But make no mistake, there has been rumblings about the position of Sixers head coach being a feature destination for D’Antoni. With his up-tempo style of play, Morey at the helm, and Harden running the show, it would be a perfect fit harkening back to the Houston days.
Sounds too good to be true. If I’m wrong, I’m ok with that as well.
We will see what happens this summer and in the 2022-2023 season. But one thing is very clear: James Harden and Daryl Morey are a force to deal with.
Philadelphia, buckle up. We are in for a long ride.