Report: NBA Launching Inquiry Into Situation Between Harden, 76ers

Report: NBA Launching Inquiry Into Situation Between Harden, 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The tense situation between James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday morning took another major turn. According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, the NBA “has launched an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Harden’s public admonishment of the franchise’s president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.”

“The league office is believed to be pursuing an understanding of whether Harden was portending a 2023-2024 hold out in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement — or had been referencing past contract discussions with the organization that might constitute salary cap circumvention,” according to the report.

The Sixers will be under investigation by the league for the second consecutive offseason. The league’s investigation into the Sixers’ conduct last offseason centered around an alleged handshake agreement the team made with Harden. The 34-year-old guard took a sizable pay cut in order to give the Sixers the necessary cap space to sign both P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. The league’s investigation at the time found no wrongdoing in relation to the Harden contract, but they did dock the team a pair of second-round picks for tampering in both the Tucker and House signings.

The situation between Harden and Sixers’ management has deteriorated to the point where Harden said he believes the relationship is beyond repair. There has been much speculation about the reason behind the souring relationship. Many believe the issue is the Sixers pulling out of an alleged handshake agreement they made last offseason that would have resulted in Harden receiving a long-term, max-level contract this offseason. However, that speculation is incorrect according to the report from both Wojnarowski and Shelburne.

“Nevertheless, Harden has privately indicated that his public comments calling Morey a “liar” on Monday morning had only been a response to Morey ending trade discussions with an expectation that Harden would start the season with the Sixers, sources said.” The report goes on to say Harden “has made no allegations of a previous handshake agreement with the Sixers on a future contract.”

The Sixers are dodging a bullet if the motivation behind Harden’s recent public attack on Morey proves to be correct. Defending their conduct around the Harden trade negotiations is much easier than if the complaints were stemming from any supposed backroom deal. When Harden opted into his $35.6 million player option and requested a trade, he reportedly named the Los Angeles Clippers as his lone desired destination. The Sixers had very little leverage in negotiations with the Clippers. After a few months of talks, the Sixers decided to end trade talks. It became clear the Clippers were not offering enough for Harden’s services.

If the reason behind Harden’s public backlash is indeed the trade talks falling through, the report indicates the league will find that both Harden and the Sixers did not violate any league rules. For the Sixers’ part, they have consistently denied the suggestion that the organization ever agreed with Harden on any backroom deal.

Regardless, the league’s investigation adds another layer to the situation between Harden and the Sixers. Expect this conflict to continue to brew as training camp inches closer and closer.

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