The Price For James Harden And Other Players Might Have Been Too High As The Sixers Are Now Under Investigation For Tampering

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The moves made by the Philadelphia 76ers during the offseason free agency period have gotten the club into trouble as their polarizing trade for James Harden and more might have rubbed the NBA the wrong way.

The massive pivot for James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers, along with P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, has sparked an investigation by the league for potential tampering.

“The NBA has opened an investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers for possible tampering and early contact centered on franchise’s summer free agency class of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted. “Sixers have begun cooperating with league on probe.

“NBA’s expected to pursue circumstances surrounding Harden declining $47M option to sign a 1+1 deal that cut salary to $33M and gave team more flexibility to sign Tucker and House. Some have wondered if another deal was already in place for future — which is against CBA rules.”

Philadelphia’s recent issues began two states away in the borough of Brooklyn. After the dream team triumvirate of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden didn’t deliver what could have been a championship-level performance due to Irving’s absence, Harden got fidgety.

After about a month of closed-door deals, on Feb. 10 Harden kept it moving to the City of Brotherly Love. The trade included Harden and forward Paul Millsap for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks, which went to the Nets.

It absolved the 76ers of their Simmons problem; he refused to play again for the team in front of the ruthless Philadelphia fans. Many believed that Harden, who is not the player he was at Oklahoma City or the Houston Rockets, might have been a bad deal until Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving asked to leave Brooklyn also.

However, the timeline of Harden’s signing is the cause of the investigation.

When Harden signed his deal, worth over $68 million, the Sixers paid him about $33 million this season with a $35 million player option for the 2023-24 season.

Since Harden declined a $47.4 million option for the coming season last month, he was applauded for giving the 76ers wriggle room to attract players for a championship run making about $14.5 million less next season than he could have earned under his previous deal.

“Taking less money this year to sign as many players as we needed to help us contend and be the last team standing was very, very important to me,” Harden said to the AP. “I wanted to show the organization, the Sixers fans and everybody else who supports what we’re trying to accomplish, what I’m trying to accomplish individually, that this is what I’m about.”

When free agency began on June 30, the Sixers quickly made a deal with PJ Tucker. Then Harden’s decision to take less money allowed the Sixers to bring in Danuel House Jr. That piqued the interest of the league, which is now suspicious about Harden’s true motives for the big pay cut; it ultimately created flexibility for the Sixers, who supposedly didn’t know that Tucker would eventually join the Sixers.

Tucker signed a three-year, $30 million contract, the full mid-level exception. Subsequently, House signed a two-year deal for $8.4 million, the bi-annual exception since Harden declined his option.

Now the Sixers face an NBA landscape replete with more rigid fines for tampering on their way to building a championship-level franchise around its star, center Joel Embiid.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.