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Harden: Morey, 76ers said max contract was coming

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

Former Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden said team president of basketball operations Daryl Morey promised him a maximum contract extension before the guard forced his way out of the organization, reports The Athletic's Sam Amick.

Harden declined a $47-million player option with Philadelphia in the 2022 offseason and signed a discount two-year deal that earned him $33 million in the contract's first season and contained a player option for the second. Taking the pay cut allowed the 76ers to add pieces for a 2022-23 championship run while allowing Harden to earn maximum money by opting out after the campaign.

But Harden said "there was no communication" between him and Morey following the team's failed playoff push last season, according to Amick. Harden added that the silence prompted him to opt into his player option and demand a trade with the assumption the 76ers were no longer offering him a maximum deal.

Harden could have avoided forcing a trade by opting out of his contract and finding a suitor in free agency. However, he said he had no interest in signing with a young team with cap space, while more competitive clubs didn't have the cap room for a max deal, per Amick.

"All in all, it would have probably ended up with me looking Philly in the face again," Harden said.

Morey and Harden had built a close relationship since their days with the Houston Rockets. Morey even pushed Philly to bring in Harden when he joined the organization.

However, the situation made headlines in August when Harden called Morey a "liar" and vowed never to play for a team run by him.

After briefly showing up to training camp, never suiting up in the preseason, and sitting out the first few games of the regular season, the 76ers eventually traded Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers for a package including two first-round picks.

It's been a rocky start to Harden's tenure in L.A., with the guard averaging 15.7 points per game - his lowest output since his sophomore season. His 6.4 assists is also his fewest since 2013-14. The Clippers are 6-8 with Harden in the lineup.

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