One of the byproducts of the Simmons’ drama in Philly was a tweak to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) as it pertains to players violating the terms of their contracts. Whether Harden wants to play for the Sixers next season is kind of irrelevant. He opted into his contract for the 2023-24 season and forego free agency. The new CBA went into effect on July 1, 2023, and it contains pretty specific language about how players must conduct business.
Harden, in accordance with the CBA, is not permitted to do anything that is “materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests” of the NBA or the Sixers. Commissioner Adam Silver explained the rule in this manner (via The Associated Press):
“When we have a standard for conduct detrimental, at the end of the day, it’s one based on what we see as the values of this league and what our expectations from our players in terms of the image we’re portraying to our fans,” Silver said. “So, it’s not a legal standard. It’s a private organization standard.”
Strict enforcement of potential holdouts is also covered under Article XI (Section 3) which clearly states that any player withholding his services for more than 30 days after the start of the last season covered by his contract shall be deemed in violation. Here is how the clause is officially worded:
"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 “complet[ed] his Player Contract by rendering the playing services called for thereunder.” Accordingly, such a player shall not be a Veteran Free Agent and shall not be entitled to negotiate or sign a Player Contract with any other professional basketball team unless and until the Team for which the player last played expressly agrees otherwise. Next: Poisoning Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey"