The Philadelphia 76ers may have had plans to bring back James Harden for the 2023-24 season despite trying to trade him, but the superstar guard appeared to torch any bridge being built.
Harden, while on a tour in China, ripped 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, calling him a "liar" and said he would never play for any team he is a part of.
"Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of," Harden said Monday. "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."
The crowd that came to see Harden cheered after he made his statement. It was not clear what prompted the terse language toward Morey, who traded for Harden from the Brooklyn Nets back in 2022. Harden played for the Houston Rockets, where Morey was also an executive.
The timing of Harden’s comments is interesting.
The 76ers reportedly ended trade talks involving the superstar guard last week after negotiations with the Los Angeles Clippers broke down. ESPN reported the 76ers were planning on bringing him back. Harden opted into the final year of his contract for $35.6 million with the apparent hopes he would be moved and scrubbed Philadelphia from his social media.
The other quirk in Harden’s comments is the location of where they were made.
Morey, as a member of the Rockets, created a stir in 2019 when he posted a pro-Hong Kong message as protesters demonstrated against a law that would allow extradition of fugitives who are wanted in China. The protests turned violent.
"Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," Morey’s post on X – then known as Twitter – read.
At the time, the NBA was in the middle of a preseason tour that saw the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets. Advertisements of the games were taken down. The Rockets were in Japan at the time and Harden was among the team members who broke from Morey’s tweets.
"We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there," Harden said at the time, via ESPN. "For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.
"We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them, and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as [an] organization."
Morey apologized afterward but the ties between the NBA and China became frayed.