James Harden’s former coach disappointed by veteran’s latest stunt with 76ers: ‘It’s totally unnecessary’

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The recent drama between James Harden and Daryl Morey with the Philadelphia 76ers has drawn a huge amount of interest in NBA circles, and one of Harden’s former coaches recently weighed in on the situation involving his former player and general manager.

Kevin McHale, who coached Harden with the Houston Rockets while Morey was their general manager, said he feels bad for those impacted by the situation.

“The person I mostly feel bad for is Joel Embiid,” McHale told Steve Bulpett of Heavy Sports. “This guy’s coming off an MVP season, but when you’re team is fractured at the top — when one of the top two players is like, ‘I’m out of here. The guy’s a liar’ — you’ve got no chance of winning. It’s really hard to win when you’re tied together as a group, and it’s really hard to win four seven-game series. That’s with everybody tied together, everybody pulling together.


“I feel really bad for Nick Nurse, too. You’ve got a new coach coming in, and Nick’s like, ‘Oh, boy. This ought to be interesting.’ It just disrupts the entire flow of the team, and it’s totally unnecessary. You can do a lot of stuff behind the scenes. You don’t need to come out and just throw that out there. James started a forest fire with that.”

Harden recently called Morey a liar in reaction to not yet being traded like he expected after opting into his contract with the 76ers for this season.

The 33-year-old former NBA MVP said he will not be part of the same organization as Morey, who has traded for him twice — first with the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and again during the 2021-22 season from the Brooklyn Nets.

Nurse was hired to replace Doc Rivers as the new 76ers head coach a few months ago. He’s now dealing with a bit of an uncomfortable situation.

Last season, Harden averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game but again fell short in the playoffs, with the 76ers losing to the Boston Celtics in the second round after holding a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. He scored nine points in a 24-point loss in Game 7 after scoring 13 points in a Game 6 loss at home.

McHale said he thinks the lack of an extension for Harden was a decision made by 76ers ownership, not by Morey, the team’s president of basketball operations.

The former Rockets coach said Harden was not in shape entering their fourth season together, and McHale was fired in 2015 with the team at 4-7 after winning 56 games the previous campaign.

Harden reportedly is looking to be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, with “minimal to no buzz” linking him to the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks or New York Knicks.

It is the latest unfortunate drama created by the 10-time All-Star, and it seems like it will continue to percolate throughout the rest of this NBA offseason.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.