Why a nasty aftershock could await the 76ers amid James Harden drama

76ers, James Harden, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
76ers, James Harden, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After months of grueling speculations and ceaseless rounds of standstill under the guise of engagements, the Philadelphia 76ers finally have a resolution to the dramatic James Harden saga: no resolution.

In a very surprising move, the Sixers have reportedly quashed trade talks for the All-Star guard and are now preparing to enter the 2023-24 campaign with him on the roster. This, despite his well-pronounced desire to be traded as he enters the final year of his contract.

Philadelphia was rumored to have resumed negotiations with the LA Clippers on a potential deal just recently, but one can only assume at this point that the latter has ultimately failed or decline outright to match the 76ers’ lofty asking price.

However, while this is certainly still a resolution somehow, this ending could lead to an even worse situation for the franchise in the foreseeable future. Here’s why.

The 76ers should brace for a potentially gloomy aftershock of this James Harden drama

An undeniably unmotivated Harden being shoehorned into the team’s plans and aspirations for the upcoming season is dangerous. Past precedent was already murky for the former MVP in light of his infamous exit from Houston, but unlike them, Philadelphia is not a franchise segueing toward a rebuild that would be quite amenable to a departure of the sorts.

The 76ers have to win as soon as possible — not only to validate the lengthy process it took to get them to contention, but also to keep the nucleus of the franchise intact and content.

However, instability amid a dearth of meaningful on-court accomplishments could be a death knell for any franchise, even more so for a team which has already invested so much in its current core as the 76ers. Blend in this new bout of drama and its other previous iterations, and you’ve got a collapse potentially brewing behind the scenes.

The bulk of the toxicity surrounding Philly is definitely not their fault, but no one would vouch for the franchise as a haven of care and success stories either. If Joel Embiid suddenly wants out, it’s probable that the majority would express more than just guarded curiosity and actually reason out for the reigning MVP wanting to skip town.

Attracting marquee players could also be more arduous from now on after the 76ers failed to have magnanimous turnouts with two of their recent stars in Harden and Ben Simmons. Perception tends to disregard context and instead zoom in on the neoteric. Potential acquisitions could very well be thrown off by that in addition to anticipating a potential Embiid exit if the franchise’s trajectory remains unchanged.

For all it’s worth, Philly should approach next season with winning a title as a non-negotiable goalpost. Regardless of how this dangerous James Harden game transpires, the franchise has to be more cautious of a grander narrative — one that could either cement them as a longtime force or sink them as yet another failed product.