Any other year, don’t come near James Harden. For any other team, James Harden just doesn’t fit. But these are the desperate Clippers, and this is their last chance season, so the weirdest idea in the NBA makes a lot of sense.
James Harden would be the perfect addition to Los Angeles’s worst team. He plans to leave Philadelphia. They should let him. He wants to be on the Clippers. They should gladly welcome him.
This summer, a possible deal has been picking up speed as quickly and quickly as Harden grows facial hair. It’s time for both sides to figure out a way to do it. It’s time for the Clippers to understand they have no choice.
Kawhi Leonard wants him. Paul George wants him. Steve Ballmer needs him. Harden is selfish, erratic, and weird. He is a full and constant pain in the rear. But he also has the court vision to lead this team toward the 2024 opening of the new Inglewood arena. He has hands that can roll out the red carpet. He has the kind of buzz that can turn on the lights.
If someone made a documentary about this future Clippers season, they would call it “The Last Chance.” It’s the last chance for Leonard and George to really try to win a title before Ballmer gives up and treats them like Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers. It could also be Harden’s last chance, since his deal is about to end, to show that he is finally good enough to lead a team to a championship.
This odd combo works. The three pieces that don’t go together fit. Harden asked the 76ers to move him this summer, and the league sighed and shrugged. It was the third team he’s asked to leave in less than three seasons.
But this week, Harden’s requests became more important after news came out about what Joel Embiid said at the Uninterrupted Film Festival in Los Angeles. The most valuable player in the NBA said he wants to win so badly that he’s ready to leave Philadelphia to do it. This puts pressure on 76ers president Daryl Morey to get rid of unhappy Harden and all of his distractions.
“I just want to win the title. Whatever it takes,” Embiid said. “I don’t know where that is going to be, whether it’s in Philly or somewhere else.”
Harden, who will soon be 34, had a good season. He led the league with 10.7 assists per game and averaged 21 points per game. But he failed again when it mattered most. In the last two games of the 76ers’ loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs, he only made 7 of 27 shots.
That’s his story. That’s what he left behind. Who can forget his two-for-11 performance for Houston in a 2015 game that sent the Golden State Warriors to the NBA Finals? Three years later, when he was under pressure, he bricked again, going 2 for 13 on threes to send the Warriors back to the Finals.
He’s bad in big games and in bad moods. He was a total jerk to the Rockets when he wanted to leave in 2021, showing up to training camp very late and very out of shape. He basically sulked until the Rockets sent him to Brooklyn, where he sulked until he was sent to Philadelphia, where he will sulk until he is sent to the Clippers.
So, you get the picture. It is not pretty. But for once, the Clippers and their happy community spirit don’t need pretty. They need crushers, scrapers, and lawyers, and Harden brings them. They need someone looking for forgiveness, which is exactly what Harden is doing.
He will behave here. Promise. And if the Clippers lose and he starts to cry again, well, Ballmer will blow up the whole thing after the season, so what does it matter? Ending deal. Inspiring play. That’s how it usually works.
As expected, Morey said this week that he isn’t interested in moving Harden for anything less than a bunch of good players or draft picks.
“James is a really good player. “Right now, unfortunately, he does want to be somewhere else,” Morey said Tuesday in a radio interview with Anthony Gargano on 97.5 FM in Philadelphia. “I have known him for a long time, and I am trying to honor that.”
However… “If we don’t get either a very good player or something we can turn into a very good player, we’re just not going to do it,” he said.
Do not listen to him. The assumption here is that if the Clippers could offer a package centered on Norman Powell and Terance Mann, Morey would finally take it.
Neither is a star like Harden, but neither is poison, which is what Harden will be if he’s still with the 76ers when training camp starts.
As did the rest of the league, Morey saw what happened with Harden in Houston. He knows what kind of trouble a sad Harden can make. Does he want that kind of chaos on a team with a new MVP and a new coach, Nick Nurse? Doesn’t he think he can win with star guard Tyrese Maxey in charge?
Morey knows he needs to move Harden. He has a good reason to try to raise the price. In the end, the crying will win. As for the Clippers, they can’t say anything about Harden, but they’ve made it clear they want to get help for Leonard and George, who are often hurt.
This summer, Lawrence Frank, the president of the Clippers basketball team, told reporters, “What we’re trying to do is put together the best team around these two guys. We’re trying to get the most out of these two and figure out ways to get better.”
They were supposedly so fed up with the constant injuries that they considered trading George. What they probably found out is that neither star is worth much until he can show he can play a full season and far into the spring.
Harden can give them this. Harden can get them there. “The Last Chance” needs one more strong supporting character. It’s the perfect part for James Harden.