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NBA fines James Harden $100,000 for calling Morey liar, saying he would not play for 76ers

“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of. Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

That statement cost James Harden $100,000.

The NBA announced it was fining Harden for “comments on August 14 and 17 indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team.” From the league’s perspective, it’s not Harden calling a team president a liar that is the issue, it’s the suggestion that he would not fulfill his contract because Morey was with the organization. Another way to look at this is the league is saying, “Don’t undermine your team’s leverage in potential trade talks.”

The National Basketball Players Association (the players’ union) said in a statement it plans to challenge the fine through arbitration.

“We respectfully disagree with the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, which we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demand. We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”

This is the largest fine the NBA could levy under the CBA. Harden is set to make $35.6 million in salary alone this season, and that’s not including sales of his wine in China and other off-court income.

The league noted Harden called Morey a liar about not quickly accommodating his trade request, which came after Morey leaked he was ending trade talks and Philly expected Harden to show up to training camp in October. While the league investigated the situation twice now, it has not found evidence Morey or the 76ers made a promise or insinuated Harden would get a massive contract this offseason after taking a $14.4 million pay cut a year ago to help with team building, even though Harden clearly thought that’s what would happen.

The sides are headed toward a showdown in October when Harden is widely expected to show up to training camp and be a disruptive presence trying to force a trade. Morey and the 76ers have kept the asking price for Harden — an All-Star player to be a running mate with Joel Embiid, or enough picks and other players to flip into that level of player in a second deal — much higher than the market has been willing to offer for a ball-dominant guard who turns 34 next season and wants a massive payday with his next contract. Harden will try to drive his value to the 76ers down to the point they will take those lesser offers, and calling Morey a liar was just step one.

The drama is far from over in Philly. Harden just doesn’t want it to hit his pocketbook again.