Counter-report: James Harden didn’t exercise 2022-23 player option in conjunction with trade to 76ers

James Harden in Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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James Harden chose the Nets over the 76ers when traded from the Rockets. He said in October he loved playing for Brooklyn and had no plans to leave. Even as the trade deadline approached, Harden continued to tell the Nets he was committed to them.

Harden now plays for Philadelphia.

So, a report Harden exercised his player option in conjunction with yesterday’s trade seemed significant. Harden opting in would protect the 76ers, who surrendered significant assets to acquire him (and set up Harden to maximize his salary).

Alas…

Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice:

Harden can still opt in any time by June 30. His player-option salary ($47,366,760) is slightly higher than his max salary as a free agent ($46,526,382). Likewise, his income over the next five years through an opt-in and max extension that could be signed Aug. 10 ($270,179,999) would be slightly higher than a max deal in free agency ($269,853,016), though a new contract could contain a signing bonus and get Harden more money sooner.

Philadelphia shouldn’t panic about Harden’s flight risk. He was reportedly never set on staying with the Nets long-term. 76ers president Daryl Morey knows how to keep Harden happy.

This path even opens the possibility of Harden taking a discount (though I wouldn’t bet on it).

But the variance could swing the other way, as Harden has the ability to leave in unrestricted free agency this summer. That’s at least a little disconcerting with a player who’s not always clear in his intentions.