Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Feel free to imagine I wrote this newsletter while wearing a Halloween costume.
In today’s SI:AM:
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James Harden forced his way out of another city.
News broke overnight (via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski) that the 76ers are trading Harden to the Clippers in a massive trade that involves seven players and six draft picks.
- Clippers receive: James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrušev
- Sixers receive: Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, KJ Martin, a 2028 unprotected first-round draft pick, two second-round picks, a ’29 pick swap and another first-round pick via a third yet-to-be-determined team
Harden had been angling for a trade specifically to the Clippers since the summer. In late June, he exercised his $35.6 million player option for this season, but then immediately demanded a trade. He could have declined the option, become a free agent and then signed with the team of his choosing, but instead what ensued was a months-long stalemate between Harden and the Sixers. Things got ugly in August when Harden called Philadelphia GM Daryl Morey a “liar” and said he’d never play for Morey again. His actions in recent weeks (not joining the team on its season-opening road trip to Milwaukee and Toronto) made it clear he did not plan to retract his refusal to play, so the Sixers had to get this deal done.
The trade gives the Clippers some serious star power, adding Harden to a lineup that already includes Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Those four would have been the basis of a clear-cut title contender five or six years ago, but they’re all on the wrong side of 30 now. (Harden is 34, Westbrook turns 35 in two weeks, George is 33 and Leonard is 32.) Even still, Los Angeles has enough talent to be a contender in the West, provided it can manage the personalities of its stars. Here’s what Rohan Nadkarni wrote:
Harden is old, though. He will be looking for a new contract in the summer. And his last three exits have all been handled disastrously. Do the Clips have the infrastructure and leadership to manage his personality? That remains to be seen. Still, assuming Harden is on his best behavior for the rest of this season at least—admittedly, a dangerous assumption—then the Clippers not only have a new level of insurance for another Kawhi or PG injury, they’ve definitely brought themselves a little bit closer to a championship.
The Sixers are breathing a sigh of relief, too. They successfully unloaded a disgruntled star who wasn’t going to be worth the headache and added some valuable depth. Batum and Covington are capable shooters and defenders, and the haul of draft picks can be flipped in future deals to bolster the roster later in the season.
From a Sixers standpoint, the biggest implication of the trade is that it will allow Tyrese Maxey to play an increased role beside reigning MVP Joel Embiid. Maxey, who turns 23 on Saturday, has already blossomed into one of the best young players in the league, averaging 20.3 points per game last season while making 43.4% of his three-point shots (the fifth-best three-point percentage in the league). The challenge for Maxey will be making the transition from being a complementary piece behind Embiid and Harden to being the team’s primary backcourt scoring option. With Harden sidelined for the first three games of the season, Maxey has looked more than comfortable with his new role, averaging 30.3 points per game on 50% shooting (56% from three). Embiid is the star, but the Sixers aren’t going anywhere if Maxey doesn’t step up.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- The Rangers won Game 3 of the World Series last night to take a 2–1 lead, but it came at a cost. Tom Verducci has more on the injuries to Max Scherzer and Adolis García, and the difficult roster decisions Texas will be forced to make.
- Both teams need to piece together nine innings from their bullpens tonight in Game 4. Stephanie Apstein breaks down how each team will try to get the most out of its pitchers.
- College basketball season is right around the corner. Here is Kevin Sweeney’s list of the top 20 men’s teams in the nation and Kristen Nelson’s list of the top 20 women’s teams.
- Albert Breer spoke with Zach Wilson about his remarkable game-saving drive against the Giants.
- Pat Forde has a list of questions that will be answered when the first College Football Playoff rankings come out tonight.
- Nadkarni is very impressed with how the Nuggets have looked in the first week of the season.
- The Giants pulled off one of the first big trades of the NFL season, sending defensive lineman Leonard Williams to the Seahawks.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. The Arizona State baseball team’s costume scrimmage.
4. Adolis García’s throw to nail Christian Walker at home.
3. D’Angelo Russell’s dunk in Paolo Banchero’s face.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s totally normal press conference while dressed as the Incredible Hulk.
1. Penguins fans’ last cheer for Adam Johnson, in lieu of a moment of silence.
Today is Nick Saban’s 72nd birthday. Where was his first head coaching job?
- Kent State
- Michigan State
- Eastern Michigan
Yesterday’s SIQ: Tom Lensch, a quarterback at NAIA Dana College, set the all-division college football record for pass attempts in a game on Oct. 30, 2004. How many times did he throw?
Answer: 101. He completed 56 of them, totaling a school record 507 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Dana lost the game to Hastings College, 60–35.
“We got back and looked at the stats and saw he threw 101 times, and I about fell over,” coach Bill Danenhauer told the Associated Press.
According to the AP article, Dana ran a spread offense, and the Hastings defense was sitting back in a soft zone, so Lensch was able to dink and dunk his way to the record. Dana also set the NAIA record that day for most offensive plays run in a single game with 110. That’s right: They ran the ball only nine times.
At the time, the NCAA single-game record for pass attempts was 82 by Purdue’s Drew Brees in 1998. The record now belongs to Washington State’s Connor Halliday, who threw 89 times against Oregon in 2013.