It's All Lies
Andrew Unterberger is a famous writer who invented the nickname 'Sauce Castillo' and writes for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, as part of the 'If Not, Pick Will Convey As Two Second-Rounders' section of the site. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AUGetoffmygold and can also read him at Billboard.
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Truly, I couldn't have asked for a better (well, a more fitting) way for the Sixers' summer to come to a head than by one of the organization's primary figures publicly calling out one of the organization's other primary figures for being a liar. James Harden going to China to cut a promo for a bunch of very confused fans and media members -- definitely don't show us the rest of the video leading up to it, by the way, what could we possibly need that additional context for -- denouncing Daryl Morey as an un-coworkerable teller of mistruths? Perfect. Correct. Exact vibe for this point in the offseason.
The details of the lies in question are not particularly interesting to me — it’s all fog-of-offseason messiness compounded by the most confusing postseason run I’ve ever seen one player have. And the practical significance of this moment does not move me, because in all likelihood there is none: Morey will continue to stay calm at the wheel, laser-focused on the road ahead and absolutely refusing to ask for directions no matter how lost he seems, while Harden will continue to thrash around in the backseat until someone pulls the goddamn car over. The volume has gotten louder but the song remains the same. All that really changes is our level of suffering at not being able to tune this entire team out and just enjoy the Dudes Rock Phillies for another couple months.
The only part of this that really strikes me is the thing that Harden focuses on in his attempted exposing of his onetime basketball soulmate: his being a liar. Which, on a team like the Sixers, is like Christine McVie putting Mick Fleetwood on blast in 1977 because she refused to be in the same band with a cheater. Like... sure, but do you realize what band you're in right now? Have you heard the songs? Do you remember the ones you wrote yourself?
The 76ers team may or may not have been founded on lies -- couldn't say, I wasn't hanging out in Syracuse much in the '40s -- but it has certainly adopted them as the franchise's foundation and guiding principle. From ownership to management to the players, lying is the bedrock of everything and everyone. Josh Harris lies. Joel Embiid lies. Doc Rivers fucking loved lying; his bald-facedness in proclaiming that the team was deciding its backup center depending on matchups or was rotating through a trio of starting lineups to try out different looks -- when both claims were very easily, quickly and publicly disprovable -- was arguably his most charming characteristic. The team lies so reflexively and transparently that we don't really even get surprised or mad at them for doing it anymore; when Joel left midway through that Bulls-Sixers game last year and the team claimed it was just for rest, we basically went "OK so when you're done lying can you tell us what actually happened?" (Eventually they did.)
And Daryl Morey? The boy's a liar, no question. I mean, of course, you could look to his Houston days and ask Chris Paul about his truthfulness, but you don't really need to go back that far -- it wasn't all that long ago that he said the team wasn't going to trade Ben Simmons, even as it was widely reported that he was attempting to ship him to Brooklyn for Harden (a year before actually doing just that). Morey has told countless lies big and small over his career -- in the same kind of dispassionate way as Doc, where he doesn't go out of his way to make his lying all that artful nor does he particularly seem to mind getting caught in one. He seems to just view it as an essential part of his job, and he's probably right.
But James Harden? He’s a liar as well. Again, not in a way that I see as overly deceitful or dastardly. Just in a way where you ask him about what happened in that game, or what's going on with your career, or is there any truth to the rumors your own team probably leaked to the press about your offseason plans, he'll tell you the answer that is most convenient and/or flattering to him and not be overly concerned with that relationship's answer to the truth. There's a video that the SB Nation folks did once about his feud with Giannis Antetokounmpo, that shows how one year when he lost MVP to Giannis, Harden said he deserved to win it because he put up better numbers on a worse team, and another year, Harden says he also deserved to win it because his numbers were worse but he had greater team success. None of this makes Harden exceptional -- countless other star players have lied about such things over the years, including the tall guy he spent a lot of last year passing to -- but it gives his Daryl Morey mic-drop moment an unmistakable air of I Know You Are But What Am I.
Are we supposed to believe that Morey and Harden had some kind of special no-lying deal, that they could fib to the media, the fans, and the other players but never to one another? I guess it's not impossible -- and certainly, before this recent falling out, the closest thing to loyalty that either of them shown in the NBA had been to each other. But as Shakespeare said in Othello, you lie with liars and you get lied to. And even if their relationship had remained true before coming to Philadelphia, they had about as much a chance of staying on the straight and narrow in such a debaucherous hotbed of lying as the Wells Fargo Center as a couple of high school sweethearts showing up to a three-week binge at Studio 54; no couple could survive that kind of stress test. It's why I say I can't even be mad about this latest development -- after all that's happened with this team, for the latest soul-crushing fallout to simply be over what the pot very loudly and publicly called the kettle (twice!), I can't really do anything but laugh. But I guess chances are pretty good that I'm lying about that too.