Report: James Harden traded to Clippers after turbulent summer with 76ers

Daryl Morey's long national nightmare is over.

The Philadelphia 76ers executive agreed to trade 10-time NBA All-Star and one-time MVP James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers early Tuesday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 76ers reportedly will receive Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, Kenyon Martin Jr. and draft picks, according to Wojnarowski. P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrušev are also part of the deal and will go to LA, according to ESPN.

Philadelphia will also receive a 2028 unprotected first-round pick, second-round picks in 2024 and 2029, a 2029 pick swap and a protected 2026 first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wojnarowski reported. The 2026 pick from the Thunder will be the lesser-valued pick of three that the Thunder own, according to Yahoo Sports senior NBA reporter Jake Fischer.

The 76ers will waive Danny Green to free up a roster spot to complete the deal, according to Wojnarowski. As part of the deal, the Clippers will send a 2027 first-round pick swap to Oklahoma City.

Harden has not played yet this fall, and he was reportedly stopped by security from boarding the team’s plane for the two-game, season-opening road trip last week. The NBA later opened an investigation into his absence, though Harden returned to the team’s bench for their home opener Sunday. He was set to practice with the team again Tuesday and ramp up to make his debut as soon as Thursday.

Now, Harden will head to the other side of the country and prepare to start his season with the Clippers instead. It's unclear when he will make his debut. The Clippers have won two of their first three games this season and take on the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

Harden reportedly is "ecstatic" to join the Clippers and could be at Arena for Tuesday's game, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

On the eve of free agency, Harden exercised his $35.6 million option for the 2023-24 season, only to request a trade from the Sixers, preferably to the Clippers. When word leaked to Wojnarowski that Philadelphia failed to find a sufficient return for Harden and expected the 34-year-old to report to training camp, Harden made clear his stance on his relationship with the front office.

"Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of," Harden told the crowd at a promotional event in China last month. He repeated that statement to ensure the cameras captured it.

The NBA fined Harden $100,000 for "indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team." It remains unclear whether the deceit to which Harden was referring alluded to a lucrative contract extension that never materialized or his lingering trade request.

One-time NBA MVP James Harden has never missed the playoffs in his 14-year career and is still looking for his first championship. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports)
One-time NBA MVP James Harden has never missed the playoffs in his 14-year career and is still looking for his first championship. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports) (USA TODAY USPW / reuters)

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported that Morey was neither surprised by Harden's comments nor shaken in his quest to land equal value for a player he once called "the best offensive player of all time."

In reaching an agreement to deal Harden, Morey either acquired his asking price or lowered it, depending on how you feel about the 2018 MVP's recent performance and the package the Sixers receive in return. The most important opinion on the matter belongs to reigning league MVP Joel Embiid. His thoughts on a carousel that has spun Ben Simmons into Harden into a new team dynamic will be monitored closely.

Harden averaged 21 points (44/39/87 shooting splits), a league-high 10.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds over 58 games last season, helping Philadelphia reach Game 7 in yet another Eastern Conference semifinals.

The 14-year veteran is no longer the player he was from 2016 to '20, when he won three consecutive scoring titles and finished top-three in MVP voting in four straight seasons. His 6.2 free-throw attempts per game were his fewest since he won Sixth Man of the Year honors for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, and his defense has slipped from what was already a below-average level, but his playmaking remains exceptional.

Harden flashed brilliance against the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals last season, twice netting 40 points in victory, but his 12.5 points per game on 21.8% shooting from the field in four losses tilted the series in the rival's favor. Even in his prime, Harden was never known as a clutch playoff performer.

There should also be concern about his health and commitment to helping a team win. Soft-tissue injuries have plagued Harden since he arrived to Houston's 2020 training camp out of shape. Strained hamstrings in both legs hindered his playoff performances in 2021 and 2022. A strained tendon in his right foot and a sore left Achilles cost him 24 games this past season. He has missed an average of 23 games the past three seasons after missing no more than nine games in any of his previous 11 campaigns.

He did accept $14 million less when he declined a $47.4 million option last summer, making room for Philadelphia to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., but that got the Sixers no closer to a title. Harden also quit on the Houston Rockets in 2021 and Brooklyn Nets in 2022 when it became clear that neither team was going to give him a chance to win his first ring, forcing trades with years left on a massive contract.

Harden will join a fourth team in two calendar years, marking the latest chapter in the weirdest superstar career ever.