Wizards’ owner says finances were not a factor in turning down deal for James Harden

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Earlier this week, Michael Lee of the Washington Post reported that the Wizards turned down a potential trade with the Thunder that would have landed them James Harden.

The cost in terms of assets the Wizards would have to give up to Oklahoma City was relatively low — Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton were the names to be sent our of town.

The holdup on the part of the Wizards was reportedly the cost of Harden’s next contract — a max deal that would have required an investment of $80 million in guaranteed salary. It was a commitment that ownership, for whatever reason, was simply unwilling to make.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, however, came out and said that this wasn’t the case. While he didn’t mention Harden’s name specifically, he wanted to make it clear, in a post on his personal blog, that finances were not an issue.

I usually do not comment on articles that are premised on statements from anonymous sources, let alone an unauthorized anonymous source. Once you respond to a story like that you are open to having to respond to those kinds of stories all of the time. In this case, however, I need to make an exception.

I would like to debunk though a statement and notion that originated in The Washington Post that a potential trade would have put our team in the luxury tax and thus we “turned down” a deal because we were “unwilling to commit” financially. That is simply not true. First, we would not have gone into the luxury tax – that is simple math. Second, economics were not a factor.

There are a couple of factors at play here.

You can’t blame Leonsis for wanting to state publicly that he’s not afraid to invest in his teams. A perception that his position is in fact the opposite would simply be bad for business if fans believed that ownership wasn’t interested in paying the price for putting a winning product on the floor.

There’s also the possibility that it wasn’t the money by itself, but when combined with the uncertainty at that point surrounding Harden’s ability to be the number one option on a team, that it was then that the Wizards made the decision to check out.

Only Leonsis knows for sure whether it was truly a money issue, or if the Wizards weren’t sold on Harden being their franchise player of the future. But the part about questioning the reporting itself seems silly, otherwise, why bother to respond at all?