James Harden is not a happy camper.
After sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in April, James Harden, the Philadelphia 76ers guard, referred to his most recent season with the team as a “season of sacrifice.”
Despite having the option to decline his player contract last summer, Harden re-signed with the Sixers at a discounted rate in order to help the team sign key players in free agency, notably PJ Tucker.
Harden returned to the Sixers in better health and aimed to make a bigger impact during his first full season with the team.
Throughout 58 games, Harden averaged 21 points and shot 39 percent from three, leading the NBA in assists with 11 per game.
Following a somewhat disappointing playoffs in 2022, Harden improved his performance this time around, averaging 20 points and eight assists in two rounds.
However, despite scoring two 40-plus-point games in the second-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Sixers ultimately lost in seven games.
At the end of the season, it seemed likely that Harden would receive a near-max contract either from the Sixers or the Houston Rockets. Initially, it appeared that Harden might return to Houston after a long absence.
However, as the offseason progressed, Harden was described as “torn” between his options.
More recently, it seemed that the Sixers were leaning towards signing Harden to a multi-year contract, as the Rockets redirected their focus towards free agency.
Surprisingly, Harden unexpectedly requested a trade from the Sixers after exercising his contract option for the 2023-2024 season, stunning the NBA world.
The cause of the rift between Harden and the Sixers, who acquired him two seasons ago after a brief stint with the Brooklyn Nets, remains unclear.
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Harden is “extremely upset” with the way the Sixers handled his potential free agency.
It seems that there may have been a lack of communication between the two sides, leaving Harden feeling dissatisfied.
Harden is, according to sources close to him, extremely upset at the way in which the Sixers handled his possible free agency and has made his dissatisfaction clear to the organization.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 30, 2023
While he may have expected a long-term contract to stay with the Sixers after taking a pay cut last summer, it appears that the team did not envision a future with the 33-year-old guard.
With free agency approaching, the Sixers will need to quickly resolve the Harden situation to focus on alternative plans.
Currently, the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks have been linked to Harden, with the Clippers being the likely destination.
If and when Harden is traded, he will join his fifth team since entering the NBA as the third overall pick in 2009.
Wherever he lands for the upcoming season, that team will have him as a one-year rental, paying him $35 million. Following the year, Harden will have the chance to explore the free agency market and negotiate with other teams.