While teams with NBA title ambitions in Milwaukee and Boston have strengthened their rosters in recent weeks and days, the Clippers arrived at training camp with a roster virtually unchanged from the end of last season.
That began to change Monday night, when after months of talks with Philadelphia, the Clippers and 76ers began moving toward finalizing a trade that would see All-Star guard James Harden land in Los Angeles, according to people not authorized with knowledge of the discussions. make them public.
In addition to Harden, the Clippers will receive PJ Tucker, a 38-year-old defensive stalwart with a career 36% 3-point shooting percentage.
The cost: Future draft picks and trades for Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr. and Robert Covington (their trio of veteran forwards, all on expiring contracts), as well as young forward Kenyon Martin Jr., who was acquired from Houston during the low season. . The draft picks represented perhaps the most important element in gaining traction on the deal. The Clippers will send Philadelphia their 2028 first-round pick, another first-round pick diverted from another yet-to-be-named team, two future second-round picks and a pick swap. The terms of the agreement were confirmed by the person briefed on the business discussions.
Philly was said to have wanted a pair of future first-round picks, with the intention of turning them around and using them to bolster their own roster.
The Clippers tried to keep Terance Mann, the former second-round pick who had become a starter this season, out of the deal, and ultimately succeeded. Mann has yet to make his season debut as he recovers from an ankle injury; In the new version of the squad, the 27-year-old would surely play from the bench.
The move was made with obvious championship intentions: the hope of team owner Steve Ballmer and team president Lawrence Frank that Harden’s future Hall of Fame credentials and playmaking would complement Kawhi Leonard. and Paul George to give the Clippers their long-sought first NBA title and excite the Clippers. its fan base as the team prepares to move into its new stadium in Inglewood next season.
Leonard and George have long supported such a move, and Harden and starting point guard Russell Westbrook have previously played together in Oklahoma City and Houston. How four future Hall of Fame players, all of whom have been the focal points of a team’s offense at various points in their careers, combine within a very isolated offense will become one of the most obscure subplots in the NBA.
“Who’s going to sacrifice what would be fascinating,” one league executive recently said when asked about the combination. A peaceful ending is not assured.
“I don’t think they need that, but it would add talent,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers from 2013 to 2020, who coached Harden last season and is now an ESPN analyst, said when asked before the season about the potential. by adding Harden.
“Adding talent isn’t always enough, if you know what I mean,” Rivers said then. “They play one style, they run a lot of iso stuff with Kawhi and then with PG, so if you look at James and James’ style, it fits. But if there’s a third guy that stops the ball, wouldn’t that be it?” be good or bad? I’m not sure.”
In 2021, Harden asked to leave Houston, the franchise where he had become the league’s most valuable player in 2017-18. Two seasons ago, he asked to leave Brooklyn. In late June he asked to leave Philadelphia when a long-term contract offer to his liking never came. Harden, 34, will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
The transfer puts an end to a campaign of discomfort that Harden has had against the 76ers since June, when he opted for the last season of his contract, valued at 35.6 million dollars, with the demand to be traded and with the Clippers as his destination. favorite. When talks between the 76ers and interested teams, including the Clippers, fell short of Philadelphia’s high stated asking price for a star to pair with 76ers center Joel Embiid or assets that could eventually help them acquire such talent , Harden’s frustration became public. .
In August, Harden was in China on a tour with Adidas when he called 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey “a liar, and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of.” For that reason, the league deducted Harden $100,000. This was Harden facing Morey, the executive who had helped his rise to stardom a decade earlier by trading for Oklahoma City’s sixth man and building the Houston franchise around his every wish and jump shot.
However, that relationship didn’t stop Harden from holding back. In September, shortly before Philadelphia opened training camp, a video surfaced on TikTok showing Harden partying in Houston while a woman held a sign that read “Daryl Morey is a liar.” Harden did not appear at Philadelphia’s media day or his first practice before attending the second day of practice. He had spent a week away from the team before reporting back to Philadelphia in recent days.
Although the Clippers were Harden’s understood preference, they hardly had a Harden-or-bust philosophy. When coveted defenseman Jrue Holiday became available in a trade from Milwaukee to Portland, the Clippers attempted to pry him away from Portland. Some within the team believed that the team came very close to winning the bidding war for Holiday, who ultimately left for Boston.