Things could get ugly in Philadelphia over the next couple of months. James Harden is unhappy and wants to be traded, and he is coming to training camp in October where he will be a massive distraction — even if he’s not trying to be… and he probably will try. The fallout from the Harden situation leads to questions about its impact on a contending Philadelphia team and the mood of its MVP Joel Embiid.
For now, Embiid is ready to ride things out with the 76ers, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports in a must-read breakdown of how things went sideways between Harden and Philadelphia.
Thus far, Embiid has given the franchise assurances he is OK riding out the current drama with Harden, sources said. How long he gives them to resolve the matter remains to be seen. [Tyrese] Maxey has done the same, even waiting on a contract extension this summer so the franchise can preserve its ability to operate under the salary cap and improve the team in the future.
Both have been in touch with Harden throughout, maintaining their personal relationships. Embiid even invited Harden to his wedding in July, sources said.
NBA players are exceedingly good at compartmentalizing personal relationships and business, keeping them separate. From Embiid’s perspective, Harden has every right to chase the biggest bag he can get and play where he is happy, and that doesn’t impact them personally.
Professionally, what ultimately happens with Harden will impact Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. For the 76ers, Embiid is the most important part of the Harden situation.
Embiid may be saying all the right things privately, but he also said he wants to win a championship “whether it’s in Philly or anywhere else.” Other teams saw his comments and are circling like vultures, waiting to see if things implode in Philadelphia and if they can swoop in and scoop up one of the top five players in the league.
Embiid is not looking to bolt the 76ers right now, but any team with a superstar is always on the clock (ask the Bucks and Mavericks about that). Embiid has said he would be happy to retire a 76er, but at age 30 he also knows his window will not be open long and he has to take advantage. If it looks like that is not going to happen in Philly, his attitude will change. Eventually.
It puts a lot of pressure on the 76ers and new coach Nick Nurse to win this season, because the shadows of those circling vultures will be with the team until the Embiid dynamic changes.