Skip to Content

James Harden Calls Daryl Morey A “Liar,” Vows Never To Play For Him

James Harden #1 (L) and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey of the Philadelphia 76ers look on during a press conference at the Seventy Sixers Practice Facility on February 15, 2022 in Camden, New Jersey. (
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Hey, remember when James Harden requested a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers at the end of June? It was easy to forget about, given how many trade demands get made in the NBA these days, and how many of them tend to involve Harden. Vaguely disgruntled is a state we're all familiar with Harden being in, and so it's tough to get too excited whenever he re-enters it. So there was little buzz around Harden's demand—there were some reports about the Clippers sniffing around, but that was about it—and then yesterday the whole non-saga seemed to conclude with a thud: A report from The Athletic said that the Sixers were officially ending trade talks involving Harden, and were expecting him to report to training camp.

Such a decision from the Sixers would threaten to move the Harden situation into a familiar and boring phase. Harden could either accept that his trade demand didn't work and play out the final year of his contract in Philly, or just stay home, like Ben Simmons did, and wait for the Sixers to eventually change their minds. Perhaps sensing that his plight was in danger of slipping to the back of everyone's minds, Harden decided to stand up in front of a bunch of cameras and call Sixers team president Daryl Morey a no-good dirty liar. While at an event in China, Harden got in front of a crowd and said, "Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he's a part of. Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he's a part of."

As wild as it is for any NBA star to say something like that, in public, about his team's top executive, it's even more shocking to see Harden say it about Morey, because being the No. 1 James Harden–respecter in the world is Morey's whole thing. He has more or less shaped his entire career as an executive around his desire to have Harden on his teams as often as possible, and around his belief that a truly revolutionary championship team can be built on top of Harden's skill set. This is like someone telling their most supportive grandparent, the one who is always talking to their knitting group about what a fine young man their grandson is, to go fuck themselves.

The question this raises is what exactly Harden thinks Morey lied about. One can hazard a guess, based on Harden's current contract situation. Last summer, Harden opted out of his $47.4 million player option and re-signed with the Sixers on a two-year deal that saw him take a pay cut of about $15 million. The assumption was that Harden was taking one for the team so that the Sixers would have more money to spend on building a championship roster around him and Joel Embiid. That didn't work out, and thus Harden was left with a choice this summer: he could either opt out of the second year of his contract with the Sixers and become an unrestricted free agent, or opt into the final year, which would pay him $35.6M this season. Harden opted in and then immediately requested a trade, which made some sense given the fact that none of the teams Harden would likely want to play for next season would have had enough cap space to sign him as a free agent; a trade is the only way for Harden to get onto those teams.

Harden's maneuvers make even more sense if you assume that his decision to take a pay cut last summer was made with some assurances in mind. It's not crazy to picture Morey saying something along the lines of, Jamesy Baby, how about you take this pay cut now so we can go win a championship, and then if it doesn't work out you can just opt into the second year and I'll trade you wherever you want to go. Let's make this happen, big guy! If Morey made some sort of promise to Harden, well, that's how you get called a liar in front of a bunch of confused NBA fans in China.

As much as I'd love to greedily rub my hands together in anticipation of where this Morey-Harden feud might lead, it's hard to get too excited about a confrontation between two guys who are as past it as these two are. Morey's been doing his Moreyball thing for nearly two decades now, and not only does he have jack shit to show for it, nobody even finds it impressive anymore. Harden, meanwhile, is 33 years old and steadily losing the burst that his cynical foul-hunting game has always relied on, and his biggest problem might not be that Morey is playing hardball with him, but that nobody in the league wants to trade real assets for a surly, creaky scorer who will cost $35 million for one season before making his annual playoff disappearance. This may end up being a season-long saga; the question is if anyone is going to care.

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read some more free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter