Way #2: If the Clippers are a play-in team (or worse) this season due to injuries
James Harden’s first trade request came because he felt that the team around him was not good enough. Since that point, it seems like Harden cares less and less about winning a championship and more about his lifestyle and making as much money as possible before he retires.
Despite this, he may even hit a breaking point if the Clippers struggle to make the playoffs. They have already missed the playoffs once in the Leonard-George era in 2021-2022 due to repeated issues with injuries and the injury concerns haven’t really gone away either.
There is a world in which Leonard and George both miss 30+ games yet again and LAC instead becomes the Harden-Westbrook show 3.0. The Clippers’ depth is very solid but the Western Conference is a gauntlett and some good teams will inevitably miss the playoffs. There are only eight spots and there are arguably eleven teams who feel like they could make a legit playoff run in the West.
An additional wrinkle that not many are mentioning after the trade as well is that Harden himself may continue to deal with injuries. He has missed 79 games across the last three seasons and is also getting up there in age.