James Harden's sign-to-trade return to the Sixers was one of the first major shocks of the NBA offseason. Since the veteran officially exercised his player option, the Sixers have attempted to find an equitable trade. However, hope remained within the organization that Joel Embiid, alongside new head coach Nick Nurse, could convince Harden to stay.
However, it appears that Harden is set on leaving the City of Brotherly Love. According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Harden has reiterated his desire to be traded. Harden has played for the Sixers since a midseason trade with the Nets during the 2021/22 campaign. Across 79 games for the Sixers, Harden is averaging 21 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 10.6 assists per game. During the 2022/23 season, Harden led the league in assists per game.
Harden Still Wants Out
“James Harden has spoken to Daryl Morey since the first trade request, and I think there was some cooling off period. ‘OK, let’s let this lie and see how things play out,’” Shelburne said. “And they’ve spoken again, and he still reiterated he wants to be traded. Now, this isn’t a demand, it’s a request. And I think the Sixers have said, ‘OK, we will try to trade you, but there is no hurry to do this. I think the Sixers understand here that they have the leverage here,” Shelburne continued. “[Harden] picked up his option, this is an opt-in to a contract and he’s going to be a free agent after this season. And so, at some point, he needs to play, whether that’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere.”
It's an eerily similar situation to the one unfolding in Portland. Blazers GM Joe Cronin has said he is willing to wait "months" to trade Damian Lillard. This is because, despite Lillard's desire to leave Portland, he has no leverage in the situation. The Blazers are able to wait on the right trade package, knowing the only person who gets hurt by retaliation is Lillard himself. Similarly, as Shelburne mentions, Harden can't afford to hold out on the Sixers given that he will be on the free agent market season. However, contrary to the Portland situation, things still appear to be amicable between Harden and the Sixers. However, this is a developing story and we'll have any updates here at HotNewHipHop.