NBA: Clippers get James Harden from 76ers in blockbuster trade
PHILADELPHIA — James Harden got his trade to the Clippers.
The Sixers sent Harden, P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrušev to L.A. for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batum, K.J. Martin, a 2028 unprotected first-round pick, two second-round picks, a 2029 draft-pick swap and additional first-rounder from a third team, a person familiar with the trade told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the final details of the trade are not yet official.
The 34-year-old Harden vowed he would never play for a franchise run by 76ers team president Daryl Morey and the disgruntled guard had yet to play for the team this season. Harden had picked up his $35.6 million contract option in June with the belief the team would trade him. When a deal failed to immediately materialize, Harden’s relationship with the 76ers ultimately soured.
The 10-time All-Star led the NBA in assists last season with 10.7 per game but it was Harden’s wildly fluctuating offense that frustrated the Sixers and helped doom them in the Eastern Conference second-round loss to Boston.
Harden, acquired at the 2022 trade deadline from Brooklyn, is now off to his fifth team.
Harden was a late arrival to training camp and continued to practice with the 76ers until he was told to stay home for the team’s first two road games in the wake of the trade demand. The lone time he spoke at practice, Harden said that his fractured relationship with Morey could not be repaired — comparing it to a broken marriage. Coach Nick Nurse had said Harden would not play until he met certain conditioning requirements. Harden was scheduled to practice with the 76ers on Tuesday.
Instead, Harden is on his way to California.
Harden, who told the 76ers the Clippers were his preferred team, now joins a loaded roster intent on making an NBA championship push. He joins Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook in a veteran lineup that was set to play Tuesday night against Orlando.
The 76ers are off until Thursday’s home game against Toronto.
“I’m not sitting here thinking it’s a big relief,” Nurse said. “These guys are focused. Other than spending a few minutes a day answering questions about it, or having a few meetings maybe that I wouldn’t have about it, it really wasn’t that cumbersome or bothersome or taxing for me.”
Harden dressed in street clothes and sat on the bench for Sunday’s home opener against Portland. NBA MVP Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey have the 76ers off to a 2-1 start all while Morey navigated the Harden headache.
Harden and the 76ers are no strangers to turmoil. Harden’s wildly successful tenure in Houston — where he first teamed with Morey, then the general manager — included three scoring titles and the 2018 NBA MVP award. But his relationship with Houston eventually fell apart and he forced his way to Brooklyn in 2021. He joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and formed a Big 3 that was never very big. The trio was socked by injuries and other controversies and played only 18 games together before Harden wanted out.
So it was off to Philly at the 2022 trade deadline, where he was reunited with Morey and seemed comfortable in his role as a playmaker while the offense ran through Embiid. Harden even declined in June 2022 his $47.4 million option, saying he wanted to give the 76ers financial flexibility to improve their roster and compete for a championship. He signed a deal worth slightly over $68 million, paying him about $33 million last season with a $35.6 million player option for this season.
Harden appeared determined to sever ties with the Sixers in August after he called Morey a liar at a promotional event in China.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said at the event. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”
The 76ers do get draft picks down the road but the short-term win — besides shearing themselves of The Beard —- is a glut of salary cap space next season.
While the Sixers failed to get prized guard Terance Mann in the deal, Batum, Covington (making his second stint with the 76ers), Martin and Morris all have expiring contracts at the end of the season. That leaves just Embiid, Paul Reed and Jaden Springer as the only players on the books for 2024-2025. For now. The Sixers are expected use some of the cap space to extend Maxey next summer.