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Players’ union to challenge NBA’s $100,000 fine of James Harden

The NBA came down as hard as it could on James Harden, a $100,000 fine — not for calling 76ers President Daryl Morey a “liar,” but rather for suggesting he would not fulfill his contract if he is in the same organization as Morey.

The National Basketball Players Association (the players’ union) said it plans to challenge that 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,” the NBPA said in a statement. “We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”

Here is the statement that started everything, which Harden made at a youth camp in China just after Morey and the 76ers had leaked that they were ending trade talks for Harden and expected him to report to training camp.

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

This may be a matter of semantics.

The NBA fined Harden for “indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team.” For the league, the issue was Harden implying he would not play for the 76ers again, not fulfilling the contract he opted into for this season (he also was undermining the Sixers’ trade demands). Harden calling Morey a “liar” was not the issue.

The union doesn’t see Harden’s comments as a straight-up public trade demand that would violate the CBA’s rule on demanding a trade. The NBPA is correct, this isn’t a straight-up trade demand in the pure sense (if the 76ers got rid of Morey, might he stay?). However, that is a little different than the fulfilling the contract issue.

It looks like an arbitrator will get to sort this out. Which keeps the topic in the news and people talking about the 76ers, which is exactly what Harden wants.