Source: Sixers trade James Harden to Clippers for picks and 4 players

The Harden saga ended very early Tuesday morning

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The James Harden trade request saga ended in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

The Sixers are dealing Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers along with PJ Tucker and Filip Petrušev, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

In the trade, the Sixers are getting back Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, KJ Martin, Marcus Morris Sr. and draft compensation that includes a 2028 unprotected first-round pick. The team is waiving Danny Green to open the roster spot necessary to complete the deal, Wojnarowski reported.

Morris, Martin, Batum and Covington are all on expiring contracts.

Covington was involved in another massive Sixers trade five years ago, going to the Timberwolves as part of a package for Jimmy Butler. The rangy wing made the NBA's All-Defensive First Team for the 2017-18 season and has five seasons under his belt as a Sixer.

Morris is a 34-year-old Philadelphia native, Martin a 22-year-old known for his athleticism and highlight dunks. Batum is a versatile veteran and the captain of the French national team.

Harden ultimately played under a full NBA season in a Sixers uniform — 79 regular-season contests since being traded from Brooklyn to Philadelphia in February of 2022.

The 10-time All-Star had several major highs with the Sixers, including a 45-point Game 1 and 42-point Game 4 in the team’s second-round playoff series last year against the Boston Celtics. He led the league in assists per game, enjoyed finding savvy ways to enhance MVP Joel Embiid’s greatness, and gave 22-year-old backcourt mate Tyrese Maxey advice on the nuances of varying pace and drawing fouls. The Sixers went 54-28, their best record since the 2000-01 season.

The Sixers fired Doc Rivers as head coach and hired Nick Nurse after their dreadful Game 7 loss in Boston. Harden then exercised his $35.6 million player option and asked to be traded.

The conclusion to his second stint with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey was protracted and unpleasant. In August, Harden called Morey a “liar" at an event in China and the NBA fined him $100,000 for public trade demands.

Harden was absent for the Sixers' media day and Nurse's first training camp practice, but he returned to the team on Day 2. Morey didn't feel obligated to deal him away quickly.

“We’ll either move James for a player of a caliber that helps our championship contention or for draft picks and things like that … that will allow us to, in short order, go get a player like that," Morey said at media day. “Short of that, it will continue for as long as that takes.” 

On Oct. 19, Harden elaborated on his loss of trust in Morey.

“This is definitely a difficult time," he said. “For me, it’s just trusting the people that you’ve known over a decade. When I got traded here, my whole thing was I wanted to retire a Sixer. I wanted to be here and retire a Sixer, and the front office didn’t have that in their plans. It’s really out of my control.

“It’s something that I didn’t want to happen, being in this position, but I’ve got to make a decision for my family. I understand this is a business. It’s just as simple as that. I come in here today, work my butt off and do the things necessary as a professional — as I’ve been doing for 15 years.”

After a 10-day absence because of a personal matter, Harden came back to the Sixers last week but didn't join the team for its season-opening road trip. Harden watched the Sixers' win Sunday night over the Portland Trail Blazers from the bench; Nurse said he was still ramping up and would practice Tuesday.

Harden won't be at that practice.

Instead, the Sixers will move into a new phase behind Embiid and the ever-rising Maxey, who just won the NBA's Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for the 2-1 Sixers.

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