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Prince J. Grimes

NBPA’s stance that James Harden didn’t violate trade demand rules adds another layer to the Daryl Morey feud

Welcome to Layup Lines, our basketball newsletter where we’ll prep you for the tip-off of tonight’s action, from what to watch to bets to make. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox every afternoon.

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

Those were the words spoken by James Harden at a media event in China earlier this month that earned him a $100,000 fine from the NBA Tuesday for “indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team.”

I can see how they arrived at that conclusion.

However, the NBPA responded to the fine later Tuesday, disagreeing with the league’s decision to discipline Harden for comments “we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demands,” and saying it would file a grievance.

Whether the NBPA realizes it or not, that short response added another layer to the messy saga in Philadelphia between Harden and Morey. Let me explain.

The NBA’s rule against trade demands is very straight forward: players can’t publicly express a desire to be traded to another team. So, while Harden didn’t explicitly say “trade me,” his comments did indicate a desire to play for another team — at least on the surface. And the NBA’s investigation, which included an interview with Harden, seemingly confirmed that.

However, since the union wanted those comments scrutinized a little more, I took another look at what Harden said and there was one other potential ulterior motive that doesn’t involve a trade. And we all previously glossed over it. Luckily for us, Harden repeated himself just to make sure we were paying attention: “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.”

Ahhh. So, maybe the NBPA is on to something. Maybe Harden doesn’t want to be traded … unless Morey is still around. What if his real intention was to get Morey fired?

Now, I doubt that’s the narrative Harden wants floating around — that he’s publicly campaigning for an executive to lose his job, an executive he was once really close with. Which is why we’ll never hear him come out and say it. But if his falling out with the man who brought him to Houston and changed the trajectory of his career is real as it seems, I think Harden wanting Morey gone is just as likely a desire of Harden as him wanting to be traded. Especially considering CBA rules prevent Harden from being able to withhold his services in the final year of a contract. He doesn’t really have a leg to stand on in a trade request.

If Harden can’t get his money from the Sixers, and he can’t force his way to another team, the next best option for him is to push out the person he believes deceived him. This is obviously the ultimate test of the limits of player empowerment, because how do you even go about getting a team president fired if you’re not LeBron James? But if the NBPA is saying he didn’t request a trade, this is the only other way I can view his comments.

The Tip-Off

Some NBA goodness from around the USA TODAY Sports network.

Harrison Hill-USA TODAY

In partnership with Vanessa Bryant, Nike is planning to release the “Halo” colorway of a different Kobe Bryant signature sneaker model every year on Bryant’s birthday, and today was the first year of that annual drop.

The Kobe 8 “Halo” went live on the SNKRS app this morning. Unfortunately, for anyone who’s ever tried to cop a pair of highly coveted shoes on that app, it went exactly how you might’ve expect. Not great.

FTW’s resident shoe expert Mike Sykes wrote about Nike’s plans to make these shoes a collectible and why it feels so wrong:

“As a sneakerhead myself, I’m well aware of what the game is. Collecting is certainly part of it all. That’s the thrill of it. There’s nothing like hunting down your favorite shoe and finally making it part of your collection.

But this is not just a sneaker. It’s something more meaningful than that to a lot of people out there. And, for years, those people have been playing this game of cat and mouse with Nike.

We chide the resellers for taking advantage of Kobe’s death and making a profit off of it, but isn’t Nike doing the same thing? The company has quite literally gamified Kobe’s legacy in the form of a sneaker. It dangles a carrot out in front of Bryant’s fans over and over again, knowing they’ll keep coming back and trying just for a chance to have a piece of Kobe to themselves. It feels so cruel.”

Do yourself a favor and read Sykes’ smart commentary on the drop.


Michael Jordan chimed in on the Magic Johnson vs. Stephen Curry debate

Lonzo Ball showed up Stephen A. Smith over a report about him struggling to stand

HoopsHype compiled a list of the basketball players in the history of every country

—  The Knicks are reportedly suing the Raptors and a former Knicks employee

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