Everyone better buckle up because the James Harden saga is really just getting started. Harden opted into the final year of his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on the eve of free agency over the summer and demanded a trade once he learned the Sixers had no intention of giving him a max contract. Such a trade has not materialized because Philly cannot just give Harden away if they hope to keep Joel Embiid around for the long run, but they have no leverage. Thus they're stuck waiting to see if some team, any team, becomes desperate enough to offer up something substantive. In the meantime Harden is growing louder in his discontent, telling a crowd in China that Daryl Morey is a liar and then having a party at a club with signs that said the same.
Sixers' training camp in Colorado kicked off earlier this week and Harden was nowhere to be found. However, reports emerged on Tuesday that Harden planned to show up and was willing to make things very uncomfortable for everyone involved. If that sounds like Harden is going to throw a tantrum until he gets what he wants, well, that's exactly what's going on here. Just like in Houston three years ago and in Brooklyn 18 months ago, Harden will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Given this is the third time around on this particular carousel Harden is not exactly viewed in a flattering light. When asked on First Take on Wednesday which teams should pursue the former league MVP, Stephen A. Smith bluntly stated that no team should be pursuing him given all that's happened. Respectfully.
He goes on to name several teams that could use Harden's talents but reiterate at the end that nobody should be pursuing him. It's just a one-way ticket to getting burned, as the Rockets, Nets, and Sixers can attest to.
This will truly test the limits of the "player empowerment" era. Harden is good but at what point is he too big of a problem after multiple trade demands? He has evolved past just being a problem for Philly and the Sixers getting sick of him. He's tanking his own value by acting in such a manner. It is truly worth wondering if anyone has any interest in acquiring him right now. His talents, while eroded, are still present. He's just such a pain in the ass that it is legitimately difficult to imagine a scenario in which a team like the Los Angeles Clippers (Harden's preferred destination) gives up draft picks or useful players for the honor of dealing with him.
Maybe that'll happen. Maybe not. But it's going to be fun to watch him work in the meantime. It's the story of one man hellbent on imploding the 76ers. How far will he go? How far will the Sixers let it go? Great theater for everybody outside the greater Philadelphia area.