One week ago today, our timelines were blessed with the following James Harden video
As you can imagine, chaos immediately ensued. It was by far the most aggressive tactic by Harden to date in his effort of forcing his way out of playing for the Sixers, and from that moment on the internet did what the internet does best and speculated about what exactly did Daryl Morey lie about. Were there some sort of under-the-table promises in regards to a max contract this summer if he took a pay cut last summer? Was there some sort of other promise about being traded if Harden opted in? Of course, both of these potential situations are not created equal. The first would be a big time no-no and subject to league discipline. The second might make things awkward, but it's not exactly against the CBA.
To the surprise of no one, the NBA decided to investigate and you'll remember the Sixers do have a history of being a little shady when it comes to free agency moves. The NBA decided to take their 2nd round picks in both 2023 and 2024 draft (which are now pretty valuable in the new CBA world) as a result of the tampering the team did to bring in both PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr (two Morey guys) before the official start of free agency last summer.
Per Shams today, we now have an idea of what they found
Well, that's certainly not all that exciting or juicy. Where are the backroom dealings? Where are the shady "wink wink" agreements? What a letdown.
I guess the question now becomes if Morey even tried, but assuming he did before deciding to not pull the trigger on a move that the Sixers didn't deem worthy, that isn't exactly "lying". Nothing says Morey has to make a trade just to make one, and it's kind of his job as GM to do his best to get the most value possible for a declining, aging player. If no other team, whether that's the Clippers or anyone else, was willing to give up anything substantial in a Harden trade, well that's life. If Harden wanted to leave, he didn't have to pick up his player option. It's not Morey's fault the Rockets decided to spend their cap space on other players and no other team on the market was going to give Harden $35M. That's why he picked it up. Once a player picks up their contract, they basically give up their right to choose what happens in return for tens of millions of dollars.
Now, maybe this investigation also turns up a scenario where the Clippers were willing to make a deal, but Morey blew them off and never picked up the phone. That would be different in my opinion and a clear case of Morey going against his word/lying. At the same time, deals fall apart all the time in the NBA. It seems pretty silly for a player who put himself in this position to be upset that things aren't working out the way he wanted and instead of taking responsibility for it, instead put everything on Morey. To be honest, GM's "lie" all the time when it comes to this stuff. Shit, Brad Stevens told Marcus Smart a week before that trade that he was safe, but things in the NBA change quickly. Certain deals fall apart and you have to pivot. Sometimes you can have the right intentions but things don't materialize so you have to adjust.
You'd think someone like Harden who has been in the NBA for a long ass time would understand that, but apparently not.