James Harden clarifies ‘liar’ comments during NBA investigation

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)

Saturday morning, it was announced that the NBA would be launching an investigation into recent comments made by James Harden. Last week, while at an Adidas marketing event in China, Harden exclaimed to both those in attendance and the world at large that Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is a “liar” and that he would not be a part of the same organization as his onetime friend.

Many speculated as to what exactly Harden meant by his comment; the consensus generally divided between two ideas. The first was that he was referring to a supposed pay cut he took last offseason; the second was an alleged promise to move the disgruntled point guard swiftly following his trade demand.

FILE – Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden plays during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. Harden appears determined to sever ties with the Philadelphia 76ers after the star guard called team president Daryl Morey a liar at a promotional event at China. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton, File)

The first scenario is by far the more damning for the Sixers. When he accepted a two-year deal for roughly $15 million less than expected so that the Sixers could sign free agents PJ Tucker and Danuel House, some postulated that Harden did so with the promise of a max contract – or at least near-max – the following season. Had that been the case, the Sixers would be guilty of some significant tampering violations.

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)

Not long after the deal was signed, the league investigated the Sixers around not only the deal with Harden but the additions of Tucker and House as well. The team was penalized for tampering with regard to the two role players, but when it came to Harden, the league declared it had found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Flash forward to Harden’s comments about Daryl Morey. The NBA, facing an issue of superstar trade demands, decided to look into these comments to gain a better understanding of what exactly James Harden was accusing Daryl Morey of. During the process of this investigation, Harden reportedly stated to the league that he was referring to Morey allegedly telling Harden he will trade him “quickly.”

While this looks as though it will continue to linger on, this is great news for the Sixers. Had there been any legitimate inkling that Morey had a handshake agreement in place during the free agency discussions of last season, the league certainly would have reviewed the negotiations once again to see if they had missed anything the first time around.

Sixers, Harden
Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the NBA basketball team’s training facility, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Regardless of any legitimate wrongdoing that the Sixers’ front office may or may not have committed, revisiting last season’s negotiations would serve as yet another embarrassment for this overly dramatic offseason. Not only that, but if the league found the Sixers guilty of negotiating in bad faith and in an illegal fashion, they would be penalized yet again, likely in the form of losing even more draft compensation. The Sixers lost a second-round pick for each of Tucker and House and could stand to lose a great deal more based on the nature of the crime.

For now, the Sixers appear ready to hold onto Harden until such time as an agreeable trade presents itself. Harden, meanwhile, has no plans to join the team for training camp as he continues his holdout.

The stalemate continues, but more updates will come as they may.