April 18, 2024

Reports: Harden’s relationship with 76ers ‘ruined,’ Sixers believe Embiid wants to retire in Philly

In the event that there is no movement on the actual trade front and things remain boring (and likely will stay there until much closer to training camp), there is a lot of posturing between James Harden and the 76ers.

That starts with a report from Shams Charania of Athletics that the once-strong relationship between All-Star James Harden and 76ers decision-maker Daryl Morey has gone sour in this case.

This saga started a year ago when Harden opted out of a $47.4 million contract with the 76ers, giving them the cap space to sign PJ Tucker and Danuel House (and trade for DeAnthony Melton). Then Harden re-signed in Philly for “what was left” of the 76ers’ hard cap space, $33 million. However, Harden apparently thought – as did many around the league – that it was a “wink wink” deal with Morey and that he would get a big payday this summer.

He didn’t. A frustrated Harden picked up the $35.6 million he is owed next season and requested a trade from Philadelphia — and that request is still there. It’s Harden’s goal land with the Los Angeles Clippersmaybe because he believes that Steve Ballmer will pay him. Morey and the Sixers reported that Harden’s asking price is extremely high and the Clippers don’t have a trade package that’s all that interesting even if Morey wanted to make a deal. So the stalemate is not like other teams are stepping up.

Speculation has grown that the 76ers’ goal is to drag out this process and ideally bring Harden into training camp, with Embiid said he hopes Harden’s mind could be changed.

The report from Charania appears to have a stance to counter that narrative — Harden doesn’t have a good relationship with Morey and the front office. Then enter treported by Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice.

Harden and his representation may have no ill will toward his teammates, but there is still a rift between him and management, and it is expected that the rift will lead to an even uglier battle, sources said.

“Uglier” as in “take me to training camp and it won’t be pretty.” Harden upset other teams when he tried to push himself out of town. Morey and the 76ers might not want to count on things being different.

As for Embiid, he launched his own shot across the bow of the Philadelphia front office during a recent interview: “I just want to win a championship… I don’t know where that’s going to be, whether it’s in Philly or anywhere else.”

That reads as a clear message to the 76ers front office to make sure this team remains a contender and nothing else, which is what many superstars tell the front office. Of course, some online ran with it and started coming up with Embiid trade scenarios. Don’t do it. Embiid hasn’t asked to be traded and Philadelphia doesn’t want to trade him (Embiid has three years and a player option left on his max contract). All that led to this note from Sam Amick at The Athletic.

As for whether Embiid could be looking to leave Philly anytime soon, a high-level Sixers source told The Athletic that neither Embiid nor his representatives have shared any such message with the team. In fact, the organization still thinks that Embiid would love to go the way of Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryant and stay with one team for his entire career.

Embiid has declared his love for Philadelphia and all he has to do is wonder if the Harden trade goes the other way and starts a cascade that Embiid can’t see a path to in a year or two to contend with the 76ers. But that is true for other superstars, such as Luka Dončić in Dallas or Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. When you have top-five talent on your team, the clock is always ticking.

Both the Harden and Damian Lillard trade cases could pick up steam again in September, closer to the start of training camp (much like the Donovan Mitchell trade a year ago). Until then, it’s all posturing.

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