Holding Onto A Disgruntled James Harden is Not a Good Solution
The James Harden drama has been in full swing this off-season. To be more precise, it was there all last season too. It felt like once a month Adrian Wojnarowski was reporting about how keen James Harden was to return to the Houston Rockets this off-season. The problem was the Rockets did not want him. Nor did any other team in free agency. So instead he opted into his deal with the Sixers and asked for a trade. Ideally to the Clippers.
The thing is, the Sixers do not seem keen to grant his request. At least not for what the interested teams are offering. The Clippers are reportedly just offering a package of role players. And that is not what the Sixers want back. Nor is it what the Sixers should accept back right now. For the time being, the Sixers need to be looking for ways to get another star alongside Joel Embiid in place of Harden. So the two sides, Daryl Morey and James Harden, are in a standoff. And according to the latest report, Daryl Morey has no intention of blinking.
According to reporting by Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Sixers are now attempting to keep Harden, “discontent be damned.”
James Harden still wants to leave Philadelphia and remains determined to start next season in a Clippers jersey.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) July 13, 2023
But rival executives told @sam_amick they were universally convinced that the Sixers are now attempting to keep the 10-time All-Star.
Now if this is just Morey’s way of playing chicken, it is the right move. They can’t just give up Harden for whatever other teams are offering. They should be trying to drive up his price by making it seem they are willing to keep him. And they do not owe James Harden anything after his performance and actions last season.
But if Morey is serious about being willing to keep Harden, it will get ugly fast. We have seen how Harden acts when he is playing somewhere he does not want to play. Twice now we have seen him pout his way off a team to get to his desired location. Of course, after a short time there he always decides he doesn’t like it there either and forces his way out again. And he wonders why no one wanted to sign him.
We already saw what it is like to have a player on the roster who doesn’t want to be here. The Ben Simmons situation was a disaster. It did eventually pay off with them getting the intended target, James Harden. But before that happened it made for a very tricky situation for all of Ben Simmons teammates. Do the Sixers really want to go into another season without a clear plan for what the roster will look like? Just hoping a deal they like eventually materializes.
The pressure is on for next season to be the season they win. Fans are already on the verge of revolt. And bringing back a malcontent PG, who does not want to be here, is not going to lead to winning basketball, or win fans back over.
It is a complicated situation. I do not envy Daryl Morey for having to figure out how to pull out of this mess. And he should not be in a hurry to make a deal, yet. There should be some measure of patience with trying to get a deal that makes sense. Trading him for nothing is just as bad as holding onto him. It could even stretch into the season. But given Harden’s history, it seems highly unlikely that holding onto him all year will end in success.
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