Things have officially gone haywire in the Atlantic Division.
James Harden, the aging playmaker and expert trade demander, opted into his contract for the Sixers on Thursday because it will help facilitate a deal and he desires a relocation, according to ESPN. The Knicks and Clippers were reported as early suitors for Harden, who has requested trades from three different teams in a span of just 2 ½ years.
The Clippers make more sense as a destination for Harden, 33, who was unhappy living in New York during his short stint with the Nets. People around the NBA were skeptical the Knicks would seriously pursue Harden to pair with Jalen Brunson in the backcourt.
Perhaps more important is the domino effect in Philadelphia. If Harden is out, what does that mean for the Sixers’ contending timeline and Joel Embiid, in particular? Embiid, the league’s reigning MVP, has been mentioned around league circles as New York’s ideal trade candidate if he ever demands out.
The 30-year-old Cameroonian was represented by Leon Rose, who was a longtime agent before taking over as president of the Knicks.
“Leon is my guy,” Embiid said after Rose was hired. “He’s like family to me. When I heard the news I was happy for him. He’s cool. Being an agent for such a long time and getting a GM or a president job I think is amazing. I’m so happy for him. I’m sure he’ll do a good job over there. I think he’s a great human being. He’s going to do a great job.”
The Sixers flamed out again in the playoffs last season and have failed to advance past the second round since Allen Iverson led them to the Finals in 2001. Harden’s arrival in 2022, which was supposed to push Philly into championship contention, will be considered a disappointment if he’s traded. It will be a blemish on the record of team president Daryl Morey, who pushed eagerly for Harden after their successful stint together in Houston.
Harden, who remains an elite playmaker despite a sharp decline in production since leaving the Rockets in 2021, averaged 21 points with a league-high 10.7 assists last season while failing to make the All-Star team for the first time since 2013. His playoffs was a mixed bag that ended with a dud in an elimination loss to the Celtics, when Harden shot 3-for-11 with five turnovers. He was linked to a reunion in Houston in free agency, but the market clearly dictated he’d be better off opting into the final season to facilitate a trade.
The Sixers recently fired veteran head coach Doc Rivers and hired Nick Nurse as the replacement. Nurse won a championship with the Raptors in 2019 and one Philly option may be to pursue his former point guard Fred VanVleet in free agency.
By opting into his deal, Harden will earn $35.6 million next season and become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Source: Berkshire mont