The 10-time All-Star asked for a trade in June, the same month he picked up his $35.6 million option for the 2023-24 season. But a deal never happened, and ESPN reported this month that the 76ers were ending trade discussions for the 33-year-old guard.
Harden then expressed his displeasure with Morey, the 76ers’ president of basketball operations, during an Aug. 14 event for Adidas in China.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said at the time. “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.”
Harden shared a similar sentiment in an interview that Houston’s KHOU 11 published Aug. 17, saying “I think so” when asked if his situation in Philadelphia was beyond repair.
The NBA cited Harden’s Aug. 14 and Aug. 17 comments in its decision to fine him.
“The league’s investigation, which included an interview of Harden, confirmed that these comments referenced Harden’s belief that the 76ers would not accommodate his request to be traded,” the NBA said in its announcement.
Harden, whom the 76ers acquired from the Nets in a mid-season trade in February 2022, took a $15 million pay cut before last season to help Philadelphia build a better team around him.
“I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden, who has never won an NBA title, told Yahoo! Sports at the time.
“This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”
Philadelphia went 54-28 and finished third in the Eastern Conference in 2022-23, which was Harden’s first full season there. The team has not advanced past the second round in either postseason since Harden joined, however, despite boasting a roster that also includes Joel Embiid, the reigning NBA MVP.
Harden averaged 21 points and 10.7 assists per game last regular season. He scored more than 40 points in two of Philadelphia’s wins in a second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, but failed to record more than 17 in any other game during his team’s eventual seven-game defeat. Harden only scored 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting in a Game 6 loss and 9 points on 3-of-11 shooting in a Game 7 loss.
A maximum contract with Philadelphia this summer would have helped Harden make up for the pay cut he took last year, but such an offer never came, according to ESPN. The 76ers reportedly agreed to seek a trade and held discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers before ending the pursuit.
This summer was hardly the first time Harden pushed for a trade in recent years. He was widely reported to have asked out of Houston before being sent to the Nets in January 2021, weeks after he showed up to Rockets training camp out of shape.
The Nets trade teamed Harden up with Kevin Durant, whom he played with in Oklahoma City, and Kyrie Irving. The All-Star trio only played 16 games together, however, before the Nets traded the again-disgruntled Harden to Philadelphia in a deal that brought back Ben Simmons.
That trade marked the second time Morey had acquired Harden. Morey was the Rockets general manager when Houston traded for him in 2012.