Report: James Harden felt like he was asked to defer too much to Joel Embiid

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Current Los Angeles Clippers and former Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden felt that he was asked to defer too much to star big man Joel Embiid during his time with the Sixers, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.

Harden, who was traded to the Clippers near the beginning of the 2023-24 season, played with Philly for part of the 2021-22 season (after he was acquired in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets) and the entire 2022-23 season.

“Harden’s chief complaint was not with any of the Sixers players, at least not the ones who were on the court Sunday, nor was it with [Nick] Nurse, who is in his first season coaching Philadelphia,” Vardon wrote. “Harden felt he was asked to defer too much to Embiid, and perhaps bristled at former coach Doc Rivers for doing the asking, but the real breaking point between the organization and Harden was the disagreement over his contract situation with Sixers GM Daryl Morey.”

Prior to the 2023-24 season, Harden took a shot at Morey, calling the executive a “liar” and claiming that he’d never be a part of an organization involving him again.

“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said at the time. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

It’s clear that the relationship between Harden and Morey, who also spent time together with the Houston Rockets franchise, was fractured, making it an easy call for Philadelphia to move on – especially since Harden sat out the first few games of the season when still with the Sixers.

Embiid, who won the NBA’s MVP award in the 2022-23 season, averaged 20.1 shots per game last season, and he posted a usage percentage of 37.0 percent. Harden, on the other hand, attempted just 14.5 shots per game and had a usage percentage of 25.0 percent.

A former league MVP, Harden still put up solid numbers in the 2022-23 campaign, averaging 21.0 points, a league-high 10.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Harden has taken on an even smaller shooting role with the Clippers, as he’s averaging just 11.6 field-goal attempts per game this season while playing alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

The Clippers, who currently hold the No. 4 seed in the West, have played well this season with their new star trio, but it’ll be interesting to see if Harden seeks a bigger role in the offseason.

A 10-time All-Star, Harden is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2023-24 season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball, football and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.