CAMDEN, N.J. – James Harden skipped the Philadelphia 76ers’ media day and his status for training camp this week in Colorado is unclear because the franchise has yet to meet the disgruntled guard’s demand for a trade.
“He’s not here today,” team president Daryl Morey said Monday. “He continues to seek a trade and we’re working with his representation to resolve that in the best way for the 76ers and hopefully all parties.”
Morey said Harden was being treated like any other player on the roster and was expected to attend training camp.
The 34-year-old Harden’s relationship with the Sixers has been obliterated following an offseason in which he was fined $10,000 for publicly calling Morey a liar. Harden did picked up his $35.6 million contract option this season in June with the expectation the team would try to trade him. When no deal materialized for the seven-time All-NBA player, he blasted Morey at a promotional event in China.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said at the event. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”
Harden has been one of the league’s top players for the past decade, having won three scoring titles and the 2018 league MVP award. He led the league in assists last season.
‘He’s on the roster. We’re excited for him to help him if he chooses that,” Morey said.
Harden is a 10-time All-Star but essentially forced his way with trades out of Houston and Brooklyn and now seems intent on adding the Sixers to the list. It appears playing as the second option behind NBA MVP Joel Embiid and chasing a championship in Philly is no longer seriously on the table.
“We’ll either move James for a player of a caliber that helps our championship contention or for draft picks that will let us go in short order go get a player like that,” Morey said.
Embiid —whose four-year, $196 million extension that takes him through the 2026-27 season kicked in this year — said he remained committed to winning a championship in Philadelphia.
“I think it’s been unfortunate what has been going on,” Embiid said. “The goal is to be together and try to win a championship.”
The Sixers are set to open camp under new coach Nick Nurse, who was hired to replace Doc Rivers, who never led the Sixers past the second round of the playoffs. Harden’s play last season was a pivotal reason why the Sixers’ championship run stalled.
“James is a really good player. We love him on the team,” said Embiid, the two-time NBA scoring champion. “If he’s here, great. We’d love to have him. If not, we’ve still got a job to do.”
Harden, acquired at the 2022 trade deadline from Brooklyn for Ben Simmons, scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 in Game 4 victories against the Boston Celtics. Harden was 0 for 6 on 3s in Game 2 and Game 6 losses. He scored only nine points in Game 7, and he went scoreless in the second half.
The 76ers already went through a similar situation two years ago when Simmons was unhappy with the franchise and asked for a trade. Simmons missed training camp and made a brief return to practice but never again played a game for the Sixers.
Without Harden, or an able replacement, the Sixers are suddenly well behind in the Eastern Conference after the Milwaukee Bucks added seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard and the Boston Celtics on Sunday pulled off a deal for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.
Embiid bristled at the suggestion that the Bucks and Celtics are better than the Sixers in the East — “Who said they surpassed us?” The rest of the Sixers have put up a united front that the team can still contend for a championship.
“We have the MVP. We have a really good coach,” guard Tyrese Maxey said. “I feel like we have the pieces around the MVP to really be competitive.”
The Sixers — who haven’t won an NBA title since 1983 or advanced past the second round in the East since 2001 — were set to leave Monday for camp at Colorado State.
“We have a lot of questions,” Morey said. “Obviously, James is the big one.”
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