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James Harden Traded To Los Angeles Clippers After All

James Harden, in a dayglo green hoodie, watches a game from the bench.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are trading disgruntled guard James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batum, KJ Martin, and some number of draft picks and swaps. The Clippers will also receive P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrusev in the deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported the trade on Twitter.

This ends one of the sillier NBA standoffs in recent memory. Harden, whom the 76ers acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in February of 2022 in exchange for Ben Simmons, has been open about his desire to leave Philadelphia since at least the end of June, when he reportedly requested a trade—to the Clippers, even—at the same time as he exercised a $35.6 million option to extend his contract through the coming season. What followed was a lopsided and deeply ridiculous war between Harden and Sixers president Daryl Morey, with the former calling the latter a liar, vowing never to play for him again, saying their relationship couldn't be repaired, and then abruptly leaving Sixers training camp without notice or permission. Morey, for his part, fought this war by not trading Harden for four months; pretending he wouldn't trade him; pretending Harden was just another Philadelphia 76er who had to do normal Philadelphia 76er stuff like report to camp and show up to practice; and then having security bar Harden from boarding the team's flight to Milwaukee a little less than a week ago.

In any event, the Sixers have now made the very trade Harden requested four months ago. In that respect this saga recalls the very dumb end of Anthony Davis's time with the New Orleans Pelicans, when he requested a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers 18 months ahead of the end of his contract. The Pelicans' brass pitched a fit, made a big chesty show of refusing the request and stonewalling the Lakers' proposals at the Feb. 2019 trade deadline ... and then meekly traded Davis to the Lakers the following July, for virtually the same package of players and draft picks they could have had six months earlier.

Today's trade gives the Clippers a Harden–Kawhi Leonard–Paul George–Russell Westbrook core so deeply accursed that my fingers just shriveled and blackened at the work of typing out its membership. They're still coming out ahead. One cannot help but wonder whether the 76ers might have scored a little better in the exchange—the players coming Philly's way are pure flotsam, with a combined age of like 4,000 years old, and the draft capital likely isn't all that hot either—had Morey simply made the trade back in July, rather than allowing the spectacle to drag on long enough for Harden to prove he'd disrupt Philadelphia's season to force the team's hand.

I guess this is just Morey's thing. He sat on Simmons for more than a year, after all, on the managerial principle that it's better to permanently alienate a player and spitefully waste a significant portion of their career than to accept anything less than the largest possible ransom for their release. I dunno, maybe the idea is to deter other players from requesting trades. If that has anything to recommend it as a personnel tactic, fine, so long as anybody doing business with Morey knows to hang some wolfsbane over their bedroom windows at night.

The Clippers will be nightmarishly bad to watch. The Sixers, for their part, have done nothing to shorten Joel Embiid's pathway to an elusive championship, or Finals appearance, or conference finals appearance. He can opt into free agency after the 2025-26 season. You know what that means: Next summer, we get to do all of this all over again.

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