For the last couple of months, James Harden and his abrupt trade request have become boldfaced narratives occupying most, if not all discussions related to the Philadelphia 76ers. Moving forward, that script is unlikely to be flipped either, as a breakup between both parties is almost a lock at this juncture and will surely dominate newsstands for a while.
Well, right now, and if ever at gunpoint, the smartest bet perhaps is to bank on Harden eventually finding (or being coerced to) a new home before October. Piecing in all the signs of the universe, the former MVP will most likely feel the famous wrath of Philadelphia fans from when that trade finally transpires.
Still, nothing is set in stone. And there is actually a non-impossible motif that could actually shoehorn the scenario of Harden returning to the 76ers into the realm of possibility.
James Harden could still very well play for the Philadelphia 76ers next season
The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) installed a slew of new implements around the association, particularly on player contracts. But unbeknownst to many, a particular provision therein can actually give the 76ers brass a lot more ground in the ongoing Harden holdout.
As ESPN’s Zach Lowe pointed out here, in conjunction to former Sixer Ben Simmons’ well-documented holdout season, the CBA set in place a safeguard for teams facing a similar situation with players entering the final year of their respective deals, such as Philadelphia with Harden.
"Any player who “withholds playing services for more than 30 days after the start of the last season covered by his contract” could be deemed to have violated his contract and prohibited from entering free agency or signing with “any other professional basketball team unless and until the team with which the player last played expressly agrees otherwise.”"
The aforesaid rule would of course apply in the event that the Sixers fail to trade Harden and the latter refuses to report to training camp. Obviously, this would force Harden to return to the team until the front office finds a taker who can match their reportedly still-lofty price tag.
Fortunately, recent developments signal that Harden is expected to report to the team in training camp considering that he has zoomed in on the LA Clippers as his preferred destination and a deal hasn’t been struck yet.
Ultimately, the Philadelphia 76ers still have time to avoid the unenvied position of having to rely majorly on a player who has eyes set on an exit. However, unlike in recent seasons, they will still have the luxury of assuredly getting the services of a former MVP to help them out in the interim instead of risking the debilitating and detrimental factor of a holdout.
For now, on to the wild trade scenarios we go.