The NBA is turning this James Harden contract stuff into a witch hunt! God forbid an athlete takes a deal that’s favorable for the team. Tom Brady did it for the Patriots for like 15 years while Robert Kraft was probably a secret investor in TB12. LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh took pay cuts to form the Big 3 in Miami. Where was the investigation there?
The decision, which Harden detailed in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, has raised questions around the league, according to Marc Stein.
“I told Daryl [Morey] to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden explained to Chris Haynes.
The 76ers managed to sign both P.J. Tucker and Danuel House while also trading for De’Anthony Melton given the flexibility offered by Harden.
“There is a suspicion in some corners of the league that Harden had to have consented to this arrangement because he also secured a wink-wink guarantee about the future — meaning a promise from Morey that would allow Harden to recoup what he left on the table this offseason by declining the player option for next season in his new Sixers deal and then signing a whopper of a five-year deal in the summer of 2023 at almost 34,” writes Stein. “Such speculation is inevitable given how close Morey and Harden clearly are, but I’ve also heard plenty around the league question whether the Sixers, beyond the fact that these types of arrangements are against league rules, could actually bring themselves to give Harden any assurances.”
A couple of things here –
I look at this Harden contract as basically a “prove it” deal. This season we should have enough evidence to answer if Harden is really washed up, or was it his hamstring that caused his issues last year. If he plays well, he can decline his player option and force the Sixers to give him a long term deal to keep the same core around Joel Embiid and make a run to the title. If the Sixers don’t sign him, he can go test free agency.
Counterpoint: if he doesn’t have a strong season he can opt in to a $36 million option next season. Really it’s a win-win for Harden. He’s still getting paid above his market value with the ability to cash in on his final long term contract. But barring the Sixers making it to the NBA Finals I don’t even think Daryl Morey has enough of a “mutual lovefest” with Harden to give him a “whopper of a five year deal” at 34. Right? RIGHT?!