How does the James Harden disaster affect the Boston Celtics?

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

If there were ever a day to be thankful for being a Boston Celtics fan, rather than a Philadelphia 76ers fan, today would be the day.

Do yourself a favor and hit play on this as you read this piece:

Sixers star James Harden got this week started with a bang when he accused general manager Daryl Morey of being a liar and subsequently said he wouldn’t be reporting to training camp in Philly.

“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. “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.”

This rant from the former MVP comes as the latest chapter in a summer-long saga of him trying to force his way to the LA Clippers. Oddly enough, the first domino to fall in Harden’s exit strategy from Philadelphia was his decision to opt into the final year of his contract with the team.

Instead of taking the opportunity to become a free agent, Harden instead decided to make things more difficult for everyone involved.

Chef’s kiss*

What does the James Harden meltdown mean for the Boston Celtics?

If the Philadelphia 76ers have to lose the aging star for nothing, it makes things slightly easier for the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. They’d have one less serious contender to worry about as they try and hang the elusive Banner 18.

However, let’s not pretend that Harden has made the Sixers considerably better.

Just about three months ago, the Celtics sent him and the 76ers crashing out of the playoffs. The Beard played a significant part in Philly’s second-round exit, no-showing in the series’ final two matchups.

He was just dreadful in Games 6 & 7.

Just days after the Sixers took a 3-2 lead over the Celtics, they were headed home for good, after getting run off the TD Garden floor in Game 7 — a game where Harden finished with just nine points while shooting 3/11 from the field. Add in five turnovers on the side and you’ve got yourself a disasterclass.

The series got to Game 7, in part, because of another no-show by the 34-year-old in Game 6. With a chance for Philadelphia to close out the series at home, finally beating Boston after years of torment, The Beard posted just 13 points on a rough 4/16 shooting, again turning the ball over five times.

Despite the late-series collapse, Harden was one of the reasons that it even got that far. He singlehandedly won Philly a Game 1 on the road, as MVP Joel Embiid watched from the bench with an injured knee. He scored 45 points and knocked down a game-winning shot over Al Horford.

Three games later, it was almost the same story. Harden carried the 76ers to the finish line once again, this time scoring 42 and drilling another clutch go-ahead shot.

Without him to be Embiid’s No. 2, it’s unclear if the Sixers will be able to compete with Boston in the future. In fact, it’s unclear if Embiid will even be around much longer.

Just last month at Maverick Carter’s Uninterrupted Film Festival, he teased the idea of playing for another franchise somewhere down the line.

“I just want to win a championship, whatever it takes. I don’t know where that’s going to be, whether it’s in Philly or anywhere else,” Embiid told Carter. “I just want to have a chance to accomplish that, I want to see what that feels like to win that first one, and then you can think about the next one. It’s not easy, it takes more than one two or three guys. Got to have good people around you, and myself, every single day I work hard to be at that level so I can push us to make it happen. Every single day that’s working toward that goal, that’s where my mindset has always been. MVP is just an added bonus.”

Man, does former Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge look fantastic now

Only two years ago, the Boston Celtics were very much a possible landing spot for Harden — who was disgruntled with the Houston Rockets (wow, it’s almost like there’s a pattern here).

Former President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge even admitted that the Celtics were in on The Beard, the price had just been too high.

“We had numerous talks, but the price really wasn’t changing. The price was really high for us. It was just something we didn’t want to do,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich in early 2021. “Even the people within our organization that respected him and wanted him more—I think unanimously we decided it wasn’t the time for us and it wasn’t the price.”

At the time, it had been heavily rumored that any trade sending Harden to Boston would’ve cost Jaylen Brown, who was named to the All-NBA Third Team this season. Brown has been a key contributor for the Celtics during their recent success. He’s been a part of five runs to the Eastern Conference Finals and just signed a $304 million extension to remain with the team.

The 26-year-old hasn’t been a headache in the slightest and has hopes to make the city a better place in the coming years.

Just imagine if Ainge had sent him to Houston for Harden, who is in the process of forcing his way off of a third team in as many seasons. It would’ve been a colossal disaster and Boston would likely be in a similar bind to that of the 76ers.

So, shout out to Danny.