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James Harden And Daryl Morey Deserve Each Other

CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 15: President of basketball operations Daryl Morey responds during a press conference at the Seventy Sixers Practice Facility on February 15, 2022 in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

It seems problematic that in the war of word (“liar”) between James Harden and Daryl Morey that we lack a clear rooting interest. As Comrade Ley explained, Harden called Morey a liar (he's a general manager, so that's a safe bet) and said he will never again play on any team with Morey in charge (again, unattractively low odds), and many people became unglued by Harden's choice of insult. A liar? Someone in a position of power in a sports team's front office, lying? Why, it's unheard of—nearly as rare as Harden asking to be sent to a different team.

In other words, what we have here is an ongoing story without a side to root for—especially when all this performative acrimony unspools and Harden ends up where he wanted to go all along, the Los Angeles Clippers. I mean, you don't think it ends any other way, do you? It's just a matter of catching everyone working the same hangover on the same day and doing that voodoo that they all do so well.

At which point, we will have our rooting interest: for the Clippers to acquire Harden and then finish 6-76.

There are few issues in sports that don't have a white and black hat because if nothing else, we'll jump through flaming donuts to make them up. That's what makes an insider an insider—the ability to hire an intern to set the donuts alight and at just the correct jumping temperature.

But Harden is played out as a sympathetic figure or a fighter for players' rights—what about the empowerment of the trade-packaged players who will have to pack up all their stuff and move 3,000 miles so he can have his empowerment? He's just lookin' out for his guy: him. Morey cuts no more comforting a cloth, since he took over the care and feeding of Harden a decade ago and made him who, what, and why he is today. They deserve each other, in a courtesy minivan that's just been driven off the end of the Santa Monica Pier.

The Clippers, though? What have they done to deserve their share of this merde flambée? Well, that's easy. They haven't sent Steve Ballmer, Lawrence Frank, Jerry West, Tyronn Lue, or Michael Olowokandi out to sit behind a podium and say, "Keep our names out of this one. We have enough trouble getting through the days without signing on for that."

Which would also be the truth. Harden is the gift that keeps on taking. Morey is the bag that keeps on gassing. The Clippers, though, have spent most of their lives trying to be taken seriously in a Laker town, and even letting Harden take their name in vain should enrage them. We don't want to play Johnny HoopBoy here so we won't guess how much game Harden still has left, but we know a guy whose history has been to settle into a place only so he can figure out what place he wants to leave six months later. The shtick is pretty much played out, all the way down to the edge of his beekeeper's beard.

Morey's rep has taken a beating for defending Harden's place in the basketball firmament, although it should be said that up until now Morey wanted Harden more than any package of players he could move. Now, though, Morey's not finding any packages in the market to his liking because as is usually the case, when you love a player more than anyone else, it means that you can never move him for what you consider fair value. That truth alone makes Morey kind of a sap.

But we've already agreed on all that, so the only thing left to find is that frantic Clippers' denial. Remember, it isn't tampering if you're saying you don't want a guy and have no intention ever to want him, even if you do. There really is no compelling reason not to trot Frank, or better yet, West, out just to say, "We don't wish to be included in Daryl's little reindeer games, thank you kindly." 

Right now, all we have is two old guys arguing past each other, and while that might be entertaining for a few minutes at Thanksgiving, it eventually ruins the vibe around the children's table. Whatever the Clippers need, Harden isn't it. Whatever Harden needs, the Sixers aren't it. And whatever the Sixers need, they're still getting over the idea that some other nitwit was willing to take Ben Simmons off their hands, and are willing to wait to move Harden until hell does a condo development. Or as we call it in unguarded moments, early December. 

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