Harden And Morey Relationship In The Dumps?

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James Harden is justified in being angry at Daryl Morey. Here’s why Monday’s outburst has been in the making for a long time.

Harden And Morey Relationship In The Dumps?


James Harden is justified in being angry at Daryl Morey. Here’s why Monday’s outburst has been in the making for a long time.

Since James Harden’s tumultuous arrival to Philadelphia via Brooklyn at the trade deadline in 2022, it was assumed that his long term goal was to be in Philly. At his introductory press conference, Harden stated that it was always his goal to play in Philadelphia alongside Joel Embiid, even before he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets from Houston in January 2021.

Despite that being his goal, the NBA rumor mill has long stated that Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta chose to send Harden to Brooklyn instead of Philly because of his desire to not help out current 76ers executive Daryl Morey, who departed Houston in 2020.


Morey in Houston

Daryl Morey served as the general manager of the Rockets from 2007 to 2020, an era that saw the franchise have its greatest successes since the Hakeem Olajuwon days in the 90s. The key move that led to their success during this timespan was trading for reigning 6th Man of the Year and budding young star James Harden in the summer of 2012.

Harden broke out immediately, and under his superstardom the franchise made the playoffs every year that he was there. Although they never won a championship, the peak of the era came in 2018, when the Rockets won 65 games and challenged the dynastic Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western conference finals. Harden won MVP that year, and although they didn’t win, it felt like about as successful as they could have been.

Despite the success, they were often criticized for falling short in the postseason, never making it to the finals and blowing several series in which they were considered favorites. Pressure led to shuffling around several stars such as Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook next to Harden. After a big failure in the 2020 bubble, Morey departed the Rockets and took a job in Philly.

With Morey gone, a Russell Westbrook trade to the Wizards coming, and no hope for contention in sight, James Harden was traded from the Rockets to the Nets just a few months after Morey’s departure. The era was over, but they saw the heights they could reach.


Reunion in Philadelphia

After Morey and Harden left Houston, both were quick to experience failures in their next destination. Despite a good job retooling the 76ers, they lost a 3-2 lead to the Atlanta Hawks as the 1 seed in the Eastern conference in the 2021 playoffs. Meanwhile, Harden and the 2 seed Nets dealt with injuries and bad luck on their way to losing in the second round to the Milwaukee Bucks, where James Harden hurt his hamstring.

After this playoff series in Philadelphia, Ben Simmons was becoming unhappy and demanded a trade, while in Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving’s antics and refusal to get vaccinated despite the New York City mandate was making Harden unhappy as well. At the 2022 deadline, Ben Simmons was traded for Harden, and the two were back together in Philadelphia.

Promises Broken?

Although most people acknowledge that a big reason that Harden left Brooklyn was the Kyrie Irving dysfunction, his relationship with Morey and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin was also stated as a reason why. James Harden turned down a five year maximum extension from the Nets, and was reportedly expecting to be paid that money back from Philly. Despite his performance regressing due to age and the hamstring injury he suffered, Harden trusted that his relationship with Morey would give him a big deal when he needed it.

However, in the 2022 offseason, Harden actually only signed a one year deal with a player option for a second, reportedly so the 76ers could sign his old teammate P.J Tucker to a 3 year, 30 million dollar contract. Harden took a pay cut and a shorter team deal so they could add more help, and then get his money later.

That brings us to a year later, and this offseason, where it was finally time for Harden’s bill to come due. Despite another second round exit and more regression, it would be time to see whether his bet paid off. And given the frustration he has shown over the summer, it seems like it didn’t.

The Current Situation

As we currently stand, Harden has now opted into his player option with the intention of being traded, and called out Morey publicly at a press event in China on Monday. As Morey has now refused to trade him, he is left with no long term security, no trade, and under new CBA rules, no way to hold out and demand any money long term.

While some may look at Harden’s history of giving up when it feels like the situation isn’t right, this instance feels completely different. Harden bet on the guy that bet on him, that traded for him from the Thunder in 2012 and again in 2022. He took a pay cut and delayed his money to add a better player to the roster. And he is reportedly being rewarded with no long term contract offer, and a refusal to trade him.

Harden made a bet based on his history, and it backfired. So he is right to be mad, any one of us would be too.

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