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RUMOR: James Harden to Sixers trade shut down by Rockets owner’s grudge

James Harden, Tilman Fertitta, Daryl Morey, Ben Simmons, Sixers, Rockets trade

The Philadelphia 76ers appeared to be the favorites to land James Harden for months on end.

Philly seemed to have the best trade chip in Ben Simmons, and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey had plenty of experience building a roster around Harden during his days as general manager of the Houston Rockets. But, is it possible Morey himself might be the reason the Rockets decided to trade Harden to the Brooklyn Nets?

Chris Haynes and Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports discussed the Harden blockbuster on the latest edition of the Posted Up podcast, with Haynes reporting Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was insistent Harden not be dealt to Philly:

“After that, I was told that Tilman Fertitta – the Houston Rockets owner – he was just adamant that they not make a deal with Philly, obviously with Daryl Morey being the GM over there now,” Haynes said, via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports.

This seems fairly speculative.

Granted, there is reason to believe there is tension between Fertitta and Morey. The Rockets owner was openly critical of comments Morey made regarding protests in Hong Kong in the fall of 2019. Morey then left his position as GM of the Rockets under the pretense he was taking a break from basketball, only to sign on with the Sixers.

However, it seems unlikely Rockets general manager Rafael Stone would have been inhibited by Fertitta’s personal grudge. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the Rockets wanted fairly significant assets (including draft compensation) in addition to Simmons. The Sixers apparently had a “threshold” and did not want to pass that threshold.

Instead, Houston got a historic amount of draft picks from the Brooklyn Nets, with Caris LeVert (later flipped for Victor Oladipo), three future first-rounders and four pick swaps going to the Rockets in exchange for Harden.

Perhaps Fertitta’s ill will against Morey played a minor role. But it is hard to believe it was the key reason why Harden was not traded to the Sixers.