James Harden set to join Clippers in first blockbuster trade of the NBA season

We officially have our first late-night Woj Bomb of the 2023-24 season, and it puts to an end one of the saddest and strangest trade sagas in NBA history, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported early Tuesday morning on the East Coast that the Philadelphia 76ers are finally, mercifully sending perpetually disgruntled All-Star and trade demand enthusiast James Harden to the LA Clippers.

This grants Harden’s wish to end up in his preferred destination of Los Angeles — months after opting into his contract, immediately demanding a trade and calling his general manager a liar to presumably confused children at a sneaker event in China — while the Clippers will send back Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, KJ Martin, multiple picks and a pick swap to acquire Harden, PJ Tucker and Filip Petrusev, per Woj.

This deal comes less than a week after the Clippers reportedly pulled out of talks, and just five days after the Sixers (in)famously stopped Harden from boarding their team flight to Milwaukee for their season opener, a moment when in retrospect it appears the writing was on the wall.

That the Clippers were able to hold Terance Mann out of the deal has to be considered a win for them, as his inclusion was something the Sixers were fighting for up until this week.

Whether keeping him alongside Tucker and Harden can vault L.A. into true title contention at this stage of Harden’s career (and with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s extensive histories of injuries and playoff collapses) remains to be seen. But it does give them potentially up to four stars — Harden, Leonard, George and “1,160 TOILETS!!!” — for when they open up their new arena in Inglewood next season.

For the Sixers, this ends a truly awkward era, as they now at least no longer have to anonymously wonder whether or not Harden even knows their plays before he was set to potentially debut for the team this week after sitting out their first three games.

Also likely making this swap easier to finalize for Philadelphia was Tyrese Maxey winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 30.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his first three games at the helm of the team in Harden’s ongoing absence, which could have made everyone involved realize they were better off without a likely disengaged Harden back in the mix in any capacity, and should just take what they could get for him — Mann or no Mann — and put this doomed era behind them.

Will this return — and the Sixers’ cap space plans next summer — be enough to keep reigning MVP Joel Embiid happy in Philadelphia long-term? We won’t know the answer for a while.

But for today, we at least don’t have to get any more updates on what planes James Harden is or isn’t on, and can let this sad rigamarole come to an end.

This breaking news story may be updated with more information as it continues to develop. And for all your further Sixers analysis needs, check out our friends over at Liberty Ballers.

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