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James Harden Has Made His Next Move

P.J. Tucker#17 James Harden #1 and Tyrese Maxey #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers during an open scrimmage on October 14, 2023 at Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

James Harden has finally caused a scene. When he reported to 76ers training camp over two weeks ago, at the time less than two months removed from convening a group of Chinese teenagers in order to tell them that Sixers GM Daryl Morey was a liar whom he would never play for again, he brought certain expectations with him. Harden was going to Sixers camp to make the team uncomfortable, we were told. He was going to get down to business and force a trade. He was going to cause a ruckus! And then ... no ruckus. For about two weeks, Harden showed up to work and practiced and seemed to be generally engaged with his teammates. After a while it started to feel like no scene was forthcoming. Was Harden just going to ... play for the Sixers and Daryl Morey again?

Perhaps Harden ultimately will do that, but not without a ruckus! Today, at long last, came news that Harden has not only left Sixers camp, but did not give the team a heads-up. The Athletic's Shams Charania reports that Harden "has not been present" with the Sixers since Sunday, missed shootaround on Monday, and did not travel with the team following that evening's preseason game against the Nets in Brooklyn.

Harden is presumably still trying to force the Sixers to trade him to the Los Angeles Clippers, which appears to be the only team all that interested in making a move for him. Is calling one of your bosses a liar, then showing up to work and playing nice for two weeks, and then suddenly disappearing from work without warning the best way to go about making such a trade happen? That's a foolish question. Harden is clearly still in the early stages of his Machiavellian maneuvers, which can't be judged on their merits until he completes the next phase of his strategy: Return to the team, drop 40 points in the season opener, and then immediately board a large boat and proclaim that, by rule of "sea law," he must be traded to the Clippers within 48 hours.

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