CAMDEN, N.J. -- It took nearly four minutes Monday morning for Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to say James Harden's name. But, after rattling off the names of several other players and speaking confidently about the team's chances to contend this season, Morey turned to the matter of Harden's absence from media day.
"I want to address James Harden," Morey said, sitting on a dais next to coach Nick Nurse, both wearing matching blue blazers to kick off the interviews. "He's not here today. He continues to seek a trade, and we're working with his representation to resolve that in the best way for the 76ers and, hopefully, all parties."
Harden's decision not to come Monday was the latest push in a summer full of them to fulfill his desire to be dealt to the LA Clippers. But although the two teams have talked recently, there's been no traction on a deal, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Sixers' asking price remains high, and the Clippers don't seem inclined to bid against themselves in a marketplace that is cool to unloading significant trade assets for Harden, sources told Wojnarowski.
As a result, Harden is still a member of the 76ers -- and the franchise clearly would love for him to return and help in what the 76ers still believe is a group good enough to compete for a championship, even in the wake of the moves the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics made to get Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday, respectively, over the past few days.
"Who said they surpassed us?" reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid responded to a reporter. "We still gotta go out there and compete. You can do whatever you want off the court, but you still gotta go out there and put the ball in the hoop.
"I believe that any team that I'm on, we always gonna have a chance. Just need to be a little bit lucky. Just need to stay healthy -- be healthy and stay healthy -- and, you know, as a team, just come together."
Harden exercised his $35.6 million contract option for the season in June with hopes of the Sixers trading him before camp, but Morey has shown a willingness to wait out Harden and try to get him reinvested in the team.
To that end, the message over and over again from the 76ers was that they hope they can get Harden to come back and take part alongside them. Harden on Friday was paid the 25% of his contract that he was scheduled to receive by Sunday, sources said, after already having received the 25% payment he was scheduled to receive on July 1.
It remains unclear when, or if, Harden is going to rejoin the team, which is flying to Fort Collins on Monday afternoon before holding training camp at Colorado State University for the next several days.
Morey, when asked if Harden would be fined for missing Monday, said the team would "treat James like every other player on the roster as required by the CBA."
In a call with league and union officials during the NBA's investigation into the comments, Harden insisted he would be fulfilling his contractual obligations with the Sixers should he remain without a trade, sources said.
Morey, who has previously had a close relationship with Harden going back to when he acquired him as the general manage of the Houston Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, admitted this summer was difficult for him given how it's all played out in the public sphere.
"I would say it was hard," Morey said. "I think there are many people who worked with him for some time, but I've been right there with anyone else.
"Look, I think he's a heck of a basketball player. I like him as a person. It was hard, I think, that he felt like that was the right course of action for him at that point. What else can I say? I think he's a tremendous player that will help us if he chooses to be here. And, right now, that's not where he wants to be."
Morey did, however, push back on Harden's assertion that he is a liar.
"I don't think I have to interpret it," Morey said. "He said what he meant. I think that was well reported on.
"I haven't responded to that because I think it falls flat on its face. In 20 years of working in the league, always followed through on everything. Every top agent knows that. Everyone in the league knows. You can't operate in this job without that. So, you know, privately I've appreciated all the key people in the league reaching out to me and knowing obviously that's not true. But like I said before, obviously it was disappointing that he chose to handle it that way."
Now, Philadelphia begins preparations for training camp -- its first under Nurse, who replaced Doc Rivers earlier this summer -- unsure of when -- or if -- its star point guard will join them. To that end, Nurse said he and the team will be preparing for both possibilities and will address them as things unfold.
"For me, it's, it's obviously we've kind of got Plan A, Plan B, right? We've gotta get the team ready regardless. We're expecting him to show up.
"He shows up? We go. If he doesn't? We go. There's two ways to look at it. And we proceed and we really get to work in building our foundation of what we want to do, getting all our principles in, all the things that we want to do, and play the style of play we want to play regardless."
Perhaps the best summation of the situation, however, came from Harden's longtime friend and teammate P.J. Tucker, who was asked whether he thought Harden would be back anytime soon.
"That ain't for me to answer," Tucker said with a laugh and a shake of his head. "I have no idea.
"I hope they figure it out soon. But if not, it's gonna be what it's gonna be."