The Clippers have to avoid re-signing James Harden at all costs

Los Angeles Clippers v Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Clippers v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/GettyImages

The Clippers desperately need to ace this offseason

Every franchise shares that same sentiment every summer, but this is different. The organization is in the process of dramatic change. With a fresh logo, redesigned uniforms, and a new building, there's a sense the club can finally establish an identity outside of the Lakers' everlasting shadow. 

For better or worse, Kawhi Leonard is the face of the revolution. Despite five years with a myriad of injuries and no postseason success, when he's on the floor, there are still traits of a superstar. Unless the ultimate plan is to deal with the 32-year-old and start a total rebuild, all Lawrence Frank can do right now is attempt to craft a competitive roster around Leonard's strengths. 

Paul George has arguably had a better tenure in Los Angeles than his counterpart but will likely decline his player option to hit the open market in search of one final payday. This past season's major acquisition, James Harden, is also pursuing a new contract. Whereas the Clippers brass should entertain the possibility of retaining George, there should be no such discussions around Harden. 

The Clippers must let James Harden walk

I wonder why teams still talk themselves into making Harden a prominent part of their roster. He still has immense name recognition, which likely helps move some merchandise and tickets. Harden's ability to have posters across the city with his face plastered all over them shouldn't outweigh his constant problems on the court.

In the last five years, Harden has quit on three franchises. His nine seasons with the Houston Rockets ended when he showed up at training camp looking so overweight that fans theorized he was wearing a fat suit when he magically slimmed down after getting dealt to the Brooklyn Nets. 

His "big three" with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant is one of the biggest flops in sports history. To get out of the Big Apple, he simply gave up as an act of defiance. He sabotaged his play so blatantly that his performance against the Kings has gone down in infamy for his lack of effort. 

The Philadelphia 76ers and old Harden friend Daryl Morey thought they could revive the former MVP when they paired him with Joel Embiid. For a while, this partnership worked. For the first months of the 23–24 season, he was unquestionably a top guard in the league again and focused on being an unstoppable playmaker rather than an isolation-dominant scorer. The switch turned off as soon as he was snubbed from the All-Star game, likely due to those prior infractions. He completely reverted to his prior form, and the 76ers suffered as a result. Despite a few strong efforts in the second round against the Boston Celtics, Harden deteriorated towards the end of the series and went home on a whimper. 

Morey refused to give him the extension he wanted, so he publicly bashed his former friend until he eventually landed with the Clippers. Does that sound like a guy who can elevate a roster? He had some glimmers of excellence in Los Angeles, which is expected, but it's not worth the gamble to have him back. 

This team needs to get younger and prioritize guys with the right ethos. It's time for the Clippers to shift the narrative and invest in their future

The experiment was fun, but the Harden era needs to end now.