James Harden declined his $47.4 million player option for the 22-23 season with the Philadelphia 76ers and signed a one-plus-one contract in which he will earn nearly $15 million less in Year 1.
The decision, which Harden detailed in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, has raised questions around the league, according to Marc Stein.
"I told Daryl [Morey] to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over," Harden explained to Chris Haynes.
The 76ers managed to sign both P.J. Tucker and Danuel House while also trading for De'Anthony Melton given the flexibility offered by Harden.
"There is a suspicion in some corners of the league that Harden had to have consented to this arrangement because he also secured a wink-wink guarantee about the future — meaning a promise from Morey that would allow Harden to recoup what he left on the table this offseason by declining the player option for next season in his new Sixers deal and then signing a whopper of a five-year deal in the summer of 2023 at almost 34," writes Stein. "Such speculation is inevitable given how close Morey and Harden clearly are, but I've also heard plenty around the league question whether the Sixers, beyond the fact that these types of arrangements are against league rules, could actually bring themselves to give Harden any assurances."
The Sixers acquired Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in February, a few months after he rejected a three-year, $161 million extension.