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The Conclusion & A New Beginning For James Harden

The James Harden saga was one of the biggest stories in sports this past summer because he is still one of the best players in the league. Last season he led the league in assists while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers alongside the reigning league MVP Joel Embiid. Together they made it to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals where they lost to the Boston Celtics in game 7. After being eliminated and returning to Philadelphia to discuss his future things would begin to unravel. 


The President Of Basketball Operations for the Sixers, Daryl Mory, used to be Harden’s General Manager during his 9-year tenure for the Houston Rockets. There were never reports of a rift between them until this off-season, and Harden had only one year left on his player option worth 36.9 million. There weren’t any reports of the Sixers offering Harden a contract extension, and after this, he began to rebel against the front office the entire summer. 


James turned 34 years-old in August, and most players begin to decline in their mid-30s at the guard positions where players need to be agile on both sides of the ball. The age could’ve been a possible factor in them not offering a long-term deal knowing he’ll be in his late 30s by the time the contract ends. Since they could not agree on a deal Harden requested a trade immediately, and this decision came with criticism from the media. 


ESPN First Take host, Stephen A. Smith, was very critical of his decision to request a trade out of Philadelphia and voiced his opinion on his podcast The Stephen A. Smith Show and First Take segments. During the Stephen A. Smith show on October 25th he said “Darl Mory offended james harden and harden clearly draped in his own emotions is not handling this right.” Smith has kept the same opinion on the harden situation throughout the debacle with the Sixers. “He looks petulant, belligerent but most importantly he looks selfish.” 


Harden missed media day and training camp because he was in Houston handling business elsewhere in an effort to make a deal with the Rockets. He would later report to the team in an attempt to play in their road game versus the Toronto Raptors on October 28th, but Sixers security did not allow him to travel with the team. This was foreshadowing about their intentions for Harden this season. 

 

During the early morning of October 31st ESPN NBA Insider, Adrian Wojnarowski, broke the news that the Los Angeles Clippers had acquired Harden in a trade. The trade package included Nicholas Batum, Robot Covington, K.J. Martin and Marcus Morris from the Clippers and the Sixers exchanged P.J Tucker, Filip Petrusev and James Harden. The trade reunites Harden with former teammate Russell Westbrook and pairs him with superstar duo Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. This is the 4th team Harden has played for since 2020 counting the Rockets, Nets, Sixers and now the Clippers. 


On November 2nd, The clippers hosted their introductory press conference for Harden where he could finally tell his side of the story to the media. A reporter asked why the Clippers were a targeted destination he replied “ A few different reasons but the last situation in Philly the fans were great and my teammates were great.”  Harden then discussed the brooklyn situation and how it led to the Philly. “ Leaving Brooklyn which was a funky situation and leaving alot of money on the table from Brooklyn and taking 26 million dollars less to try and make the team [Nets] better but they dont talk about that.” 


Atfer the press conference Stephen A. went on First Take to give his reaction. “ Fair enough he’s a 3-time scoring champion, Former league MVP, 2-time leader in assist and he can be scoring machine still because he’s still gifted but are you a champion?.”  Smith said he hadn’t watched the entire press conference so when harden devulged the information about the paycut in brooklyn he defended Harden. “ When he points what he points out we have to defend that he did take 26 million dollars less and when he is as angry as he is at Daryl Mory clearly Mory promised him something.” 


Harden has been given a fresh start in his hometown of Los Angeles this season playing for a new team, new front office and new teammates. This puts harden in the best situation to succeed in the later years of his career. He has two bonafide superstars along side him and a former teammate from a previous team whom he made the NBA Finals with. All of them are from Los Angeles so its a unique situation of four future hall of famers coming together trying to win a championship for their city. 

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