The volatile stalemate between James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers could have been completely avoided if one voice was still making noise in the front office. That loud and persuasive reverberation would have been none other than Michael Rubin.
The one-time owner of the Sixers sold his 10% stake in the franchise last June to focus on expanding Fanatics. Rubin saw a potential conflict of interest since his billion-dollar sports merchandising company was set to launch a gambling vertical. Rubin got out to shield Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment from any criticism. However, the Sixers now find themselves in a bind for the way team president Daryl Morey handled the Harden situation.
Rubin told Pat Beverley (via the Pat Bev Podcast) that he could have smoothed everything out and/or prevented anything from happening in the first place.
“It wouldn’t have happened,” Rubin told Beverley. “First of all, James is family to me. I’m not going to hide about that. I love James. This thing is breaking my heart. This thing was just not handled well. There’s nobody who wants to win a championship more than James Harden. I know this guy like my brother. People give James a hard time because, you know, he likes to have fun and it’s bullshit. The guy’s work ethic for basketball is insane.”
Beverley, who inked a one-year deal with the Sixers in the offseason, added some insight on how Harden has looked during recent practices: “The pot was out and he was stirring that bitch up.” And, contrary to media reports, Beverley shot down the notion that Harden was sulking and trying to sabotage the team’s chemistry.
“His attitude has been great,” Beverley said. “He’s been leading. He’s been giving advice. You might hear all the bad shit on him from reporters that’s not there but actually being a teammate that’s there, he’s been phenomenal.”
Rubin and Harden are fast friends who tend to hang out frequently off the court.
The two men were most recently seen living their best lives together in July at Rubin’s popular “White Party” at his mansion in The Hamptons. Other star players and high-ranking executives for the Sixers were in attendance, including Joel Embiid and Josh Harris. According to Rubin, Harden — look no further than his intense workout routine in China — is in great shape physically and mentally.
“I block out the noise that relates to him because a lot of people just don’t know like the real James Harden and how badly he wants to win,” Rubin said. “I think he’s in great shape, not good shape … great shape. He’s going to ball out this year.”
Beverley added: “Yeah, he’s in great shape. Body looks great. Every time I’m in the weight room he’s in the weight room.”