James Harden’s new contract with the Philadelphia 76ers is team-friendly to say the least. However, some within the NBA reportedly believe the organization intends to make it up to him later.
Harden essentially took a $15 million pay cut by opting out of his contract and re-signing with Philadelphia for two years and $68.6 million. This has led to some speculation around the league, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein, that Harden and 76ers GM Daryl Morey made an informal agreement about a new contract next offseason.
“There is a suspicion in some corners of the league that Harden had to have consented to this arrangement because he also secured a wink-wink guarantee about the future — meaning a promise from Morey that would allow Harden to recoup what he left on the table this offseason by declining the player option for next season in his new Sixers deal and then signing a whopper of a five-year deal in the summer of 2023 at almost 34,” Stein wrote, via RealGM. “Such speculation is inevitable given how close Morey and Harden clearly are, but I’ve also heard plenty around the league question whether the Sixers, beyond the fact that these types of arrangements are against league rules, could actually bring themselves to give Harden any assurances.”
Given the league’s increased focus on tampering rules and other special arrangements, this may be something they choose to look into. Still, it seems like it would be very difficult to gather evidence for.
Harden’s new deal does have some protections built into it that favor him. Still, the fact that other teams are this suspicious means it is something to keep an eye on.