James Harden spoke about his exit from the Philadelphia 76ers in an exclusive interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic. In the interview, Harden confirmed he believes there was a broken promise of a max contract during the 2023 offseason. When it became evident to Harden that the Sixers were preparing an offer below the max, he decided to opt into his $35.6 million contract while demanding a trade.
Harden was asked to explain his thought process when he decided he wanted to leave the Sixers and whether it was always exclusively to the Los Angeles Clippers.
"It was about trying to get to a situation where I could get paid and obviously have a chance to win at the highest level," said Harden. "These last few years, I sacrificed so much — whether it’s role, whether it’s financial — that, at this point, it’s over with. I just want to be able to move forward and still have the opportunity to make some money and obviously win at the highest level."
Amick asked Harden if he was told by the Sixers that a contract was coming.
"A max?" replied Harden.
Harden then said "Yes" and confirmed that it was said by Daryl Morey.
But Morey stopped communicating with Harden following their exit from the playoffs.
"Yeah, me and Daryl had a really good relationship. So (in the past), a week or two after we lose in the playoffs, it would be all about trying to figure out how to improve the team. (They’d talk about) ‘How do we get better?’ And that’s been going on for 10-plus years, you know what I mean? And then this year, there was no communication. And at that point, it’s like, ‘OK, I see what’s going on.’ I’m very intelligent. So then I just figure out ‘What’s my next move, and what do I want to do?’ So I understand that, at the end of the day, this is a business. And just like he has to do what’s best for his organization, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and my family. It’s as simple as that."
Later in the interview, Harden claims that Morey spoke with his representation about a contract before the start of last season's playoffs. A source from the Sixers denied the claim to The Athletic.
Harden then reflected on his unique relationship with Morey and how it ended.
"Yeah," said Harden. "It surprised the hell out of me, you know what I mean? I looked at it like a marriage. We talked about a lot of s—. And we’ve got a lot of s— that, in front of people’s eyes, you don’t know or understand. But instead of (Morey) having a conversation with me (about free agency) or saying, ‘All right James, we don’t want to offer you this, but we have this.’ Then we go back and forth, and that’s a dialogue. But you just ice me out? Then it’s like, you don’t respect me as much as I thought you did. You don’t need people like that, you know what I mean? So it’s just bad karma. People were throwing dirt on my name, but the good guys always win."
Harden doesn't plan on reconnecting with Morey anytime soon.
"There’s too much money, too much respect (lost) and too much loyalty on my end to even double back (with Morey). There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing to talk about. This is real money."