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Things seem to be repeating themselves in Philadelphia. Another All-Star guard has requested a trade from the organization, and just like last time, it doesn't appear that this will be over swiftly. James Harden wants out of Philadelphia, and more specifically he would prefer to land on the Los Angeles Clippers. The 76ers were in trade talks with the Clippers, but over the weekend Philadelphia ended those talks and instead plans to have Harden on the roster into training camp  

It was then reported that Harden would hold out of training camp if a trade wasn't completed. That was followed up by Harden then calling Sixers president Daryl Morey a "liar," and saying he would never play for a team of his in front of a room full of people during an event in China. 

So now we have one very disgruntled star in Harden who reportedly could hold out if he doesn't get traded, and a team president that has a history of waiting things out until he gets exactly what he wants. However, unlike when Ben Simmons requested a trade from the Sixers and then was away from the team for half a season until he got moved, Harden stands to face some harsher penalties than Simmons did if he does hold out.

What the CBA says

Harden opted into his $35.6 million player option for the 2023-24 season on June 29. Harden could have opted out of the deal and entered free agency this summer, but instead opted in, apparently with the belief the 76ers would trade him.

Here is what the league's recently signed collective bargaining agreement says about players in the last year of their contracts holding out:

"A player who withholds playing services called for by a Player Contract for more than thirty (30) days after the start of the last Season covered by his Player Contract shall be deemed not to have "complet[ed] his Player Contract by rendering the playing services called for thereunder." Accordingly, such a player shall not be a Veteran Free Agent and shall not be entitled to negotiate or sign a Player Contract with any other professional basketball team unless and until the Team for which the player last played expressly agrees otherwise."

Dates to watch

Essentially, because Harden is on an expiring contract, if he holds out for more than 30 days and the team doesn't trade him at any point this season, the Sixers would have the ability to block him from becoming a free agent next summer.

That 30 days starts when training camp opens on Oct. 3, so if Harden holds out until early November, and isn't traded this season then Philadelphia has the power to block him from signing with any team in any professional basketball league until they "expressly agree otherwise."

It would be surprising if things came to that, because the Sixers at this point likely want to move on from Harden just as much as he does. Invoking that clause could also hurt the Sixers chances of signing other players in the future and potentially hinder relationships with agents. The Sixers also have to think of their reigning MVP Joel Embiid, who likely isn't too thrilled about the team's second drama-filled summer in three years.

Key dates

  • Oct. 3: NBA training camps open
  • Oct. 8: 76ers first preseason game (at Boston)
  • Oct. 24: NBA opening night
  • Nov. 3: 31 days after start of training camp

What about the money?

Aside from that penalty Harden could face down the road, if he does hold out and he misses games, he stands to be fined 1/96.1th of his base salary per game missed, per the CBA. That includes the "exhibition, regular-season, play-in and playoff" games, the CBA says. That amounts to $389,082.97 per missed game on Harden's $35.6M deal. 

For missing practice, Harden would be fined $2,500 for the first, $5,000 for the second, $7,500 for the third, and for fourth and beyond an amount "reasonable under the circumstances," per the CBA.

Harden's situation is unique in that holding out won't just cost him hundreds of thousands or potentially millions of dollars like it did for Simmons. Because he's in the final year of his deal, there's the possibility that the Sixers can control his future after this season if his holdout extends past 30 days. That's obviously not the situation Harden wants to be in, but that's the reality he faces if he holds out. The question is, which side will blink first in this standoff, because both Harden and the Sixers stand to lose something in this situation. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out, but as of right now it doesn't seem like either side is willing to budge.