Report: James Harden will report to training camp

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden looks to pass the ball during the first half of Game 3 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It looks like despite James Harden’s frustrations with the Philadelphia 76ers and the “severed” relationship he has with Daryl Morey, the reigning assist leader will not hold out through training camp.

According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, “Harden is expected at this point to report to training camp…” This is very good for Sixers fans hoping to get a decent return on James Harden, despite the lack of interest he has around the league.

While it remains clear that Harden wants to play for the Clippers, a sentiment that Jake Fischer agreed with, a big reason why no trade has gone through is because of the lowball offers for The Beard. If Harden comes into training camp seriously and shows a commitment to hard work, it would do miracles for his trade stock. If Harden comes back and stays engaged on the court, it could completely resurrect James Harden’s value.

Why this is good for the Sixers

James Harden
Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the team’s NBA basketball practice facility, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers are more than likely not going to get a player of Harden’s value in return for Harden. He is the reigning assist leader and a 21.0 point per game scorer, but he also forced his way out of Houston, Brooklyn, and (soon) Philadelphia. His exit from Houston has left an exceptionally bitter taste in so many people’s mouths, and it seems to be tanking his trade value and underwhelming playoff performance.

However, if James were to go into training camp (and the regular season if needed) completely focused, it would significantly raise the reasonable asking price for James Harden, giving Morey slightly more leverage to work with in his trade negotiations.

Why this is good for James Harden

James Harden
Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) advances the ball against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 2, 2023, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Since forcing his way out of Houston, James Harden has had a slightly tanked trade value. Teams are clearly becoming wary of trading for the star guard. This causes many teams to either send smaller offers (see: The Clippers’ rumored offers) to mitigate the risk of trading for a player like Harden, which slows down the selection process, or it alienates teams from wanting a player of Harden’s talent, because of how he acts. That narrative could be silenced or even put to bed completely if Harden comes into training camp ready to work. This would cause trade talks to fire up, as a fully engaged Harden is a far more desirable asset than a disgruntled Harden. 

What is going to happen?

James Harden
FILE -Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) calls to teammates during the first half of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Boston. James Harden might have side-eyed questions, much like he did in a playful reaction to a question in his Houston days, about his future with the Philadelphia 76ers. Will Harden return to the 76ers for a third season? (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

ESPN’s Zach Lowe mentioned Thursday morning how the James Harden situation will differ from Ben Simmons’ trade request. The core difference comes via a clause in the CBA that relates specifically to Harden, as he is in the final year of his contract. Lowe wrote this morning:

“A separate clause in the CBA — which existed in prior versions of the agreement — holds that any player who ‘withholds playing services for more than 30 days after the start of the last season covered by his contract” could be deemed to have violated his contract and prohibited from entering free agency or signing with ‘any other professional basketball team unless and until the team with which the player last played expressly agrees otherwise.’ “

If Harden wants to be traded as soon as possible, he has to know that Daryl Morey won’t simply trade him for pennies on the dollar. If he sits out, he runs the risk of violating his contract.

The only way that James Harden is moved quickly, barring an Embiid ultimatum, would be if he improved his trade value by being engaged and committing to work. It may be possible that Harden will simply put in minimum effort for the Sixers’ regular season, should he still be on the roster by then. We’ve seen him do that in Houston; we saw him force his way out at the trade deadline to go from the Nets to the Sixers; we may see him do it again to get to the Clippers.