The never-ending saga between James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers is quickly transitioning from soap opera to telenovela. There is a new plot twist every single day, although everyone following the storyline understands that the show will only have a limited number of episodes. That’s the reality (pun intended) of the situation right now.
The latest development centers around the NBA leveling a $100,000 fine on Harden for his very public comments disparaging Daryl Morey after the Sixers president reportedly cut off trade talks. Both sides have dug their stubborn heels in the sand while reports hint that they are committed to dragging this ridiculous scenario out and not backing down.
Harden has already threatened to make things “uncomfortable” and fired the first salvo when he unabashedly called Morey a “liar” during a promotional tour. Now the league has pushed back and cited him for breach of contract. Here is what the NBA released in an official memo on August 22:
“The NBA announced today that Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for public comments on August 14 and 17 indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team. The league’s investigation, which included an interview of Harden, confirmed that these comments referenced Harden’s belief that the 76ers would not accommodate his request to be traded.”
The fact that Harden casually harpooned Morey as a “liar” isn’t the real issue.
The First Amendment allows people the freedom to throw proverbial sticks and stones at each other. That’s not the problem. What irked the league was saying “I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of.” Remember, he opted into his $35.6 million contract option for the 2023-24 season. Whether Morey promised to trade him in a back-room, closed-door type of meeting doesn’t matter. Harden remains under contract and the Sixers own his rights according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Deal with it.
“Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden told a crowd in China, via Shams Charania. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of.”
Later in the day, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) responded swiftly with a clear message of support for Harden by proclaiming their intentions to file a grievance and fight the matter at the highest level. Their official statement read: “We respectfully disagree with the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, which we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demands. We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”
Meanwhile, the Sixers are preparing for training camp and expect Harden to be on the court when it begins in late September. Their first preseason game is scheduled for October 8 against Boston, although reports (via The Athletic’s Joe Vardon) indicate that Harden has absolutely no plans to report to training camp or play in any preseason games. Buckle up for what should be a long and interesting few months.