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Sixers take James Harden off trade market

It’s deja vu in Philly.

In a situation that is reminiscent of the Ben Simmons saga two seasons ago, a team source confirmed to The Athletic that the Sixers have decided to end trade talks on disgruntled star James Harden and are now planning on him being in training camp late next month. Yet as Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is well aware, the prospect of fixing this fractured relationship between Harden and the organization that he no longer wants to play for is not that simple.

Not even close.

No matter what signals the Sixers might send when it comes to trade talks, a source close to Harden reiterated that the 10-time All-Star and former MVP no longer wants to play for Philadelphia and has no plans of taking part in training camp. Does that mean he won’t report if a deal doesn’t go down by that point, or that he’ll make a messy spectacle of his training camp arrival like he did when he was trying to get out of Houston back in December of 2020? That part remains unclear, with Harden’s side still expressing a belief that there will be meaningful developments on the trade talk front before that time comes. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

At minimum, this much is clear: Trade talks between Philadelphia and his preferred team, the Clippers, this summer have clearly been stagnant. There’s no need for the Sixers to make a public proclamation like this if that wasn’t the case. But as always, there’s a human component here that will make these next seven weeks worth watching.

From his aforementioned Rockets exit to the Brooklyn bail-out that followed, the team that refused to grant Harden’s trade wishes learned the hard way that he’s quite good at staring contests. His discontent has revealed itself in many forms during these past few years — most famously with his party tour through Las Vegas and Atlanta before he finally joined Rockets training camp — and Harden has yet to comply when a team has tried to convince him to reverse course on a trade request. The irony of the Simmons context, of course, is that Morey showed his own penchant for stubbornness in that situation that lasted nearly six months before he was traded to the Nets for Harden in February of 2021.

As The Athletic reported in mid-July, rival executives have long been convinced that Morey was trying to keep Harden in Philadelphia. Harden asked out in late June, when his anger over how Morey handled his possible free agency led to his choice to pick up the player option for next season (worth $35.6 million) while simultaneously requesting the trade.

As Morey has said publicly, they are extremely mindful of the need to keep All-Star level talent around big man Joel Embiid and, as a result, refuse to do a deal that leaves the reigning MVP in a worse position to contend for a title. And make no mistake, Embiid’s mid-July comments hinting at his own possible exit someday were the kind of thing that underscored this sobering truth.

Yet with Harden’s free agency now looming in the summer of 2024, he’s clearly holding out hope that he gets his wish before camp arrives. Even if the Sixers say it’s not happening.

ESPN first reported the news of the Sixers ending trade talks on Harden.

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(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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