February 07, 2022
UPDATE [9:59 a.m.] — It's worth noting that this mini update isn't coming from someone known for breaking NBA news, but it is someone who has a lot of connections in NBA circles and knows a thing or two about basketball: Bill Simmons.
In his latest podcast for The Ringer, Simmons dropped a nugget about what the Sixers would need to include in a trade if they wanted a Ben Simmons for James Harden deal to work. Here's what he said, via Reddit:
So here's what I heard. This is from the same source that has given me some good intel over the past couple weeks. Brooklyn is open to it, but [Seth] Curry has to be in the deal. You can aggregate this, I don't care. Brooklyn is looking at this year because they have Durant and Durant, we assume, is going to be healthy pretty soon and the east is wide open and they want a chance to win. For them, the trade that makes sense for them is Simmons and Curry for Harden. This is what I heard.
I think that would make sense for a lot of reasons except for Philly. I watched Philly today, I watched their whole game, I like the team they have! If i'm adding somebody, I'm not adding something that blows up what I've built over the past couple months. Maxey, Curry, Embiid.. Harris has been fine. But what they really need is like.. I think Bradley Beal makes so much more sense from them because he just gets the Korkmaz minutes and some of the Danny Green minutes and they keep everything else that they have. So if I'm them, I could get Bradley Beal for Simmons and picks, that's the direction I'm going. [The Bill Simmons Podcast, via reddit]
Interestingly enough, our own Kyle Neubeck wrote recently that Seth Curry is someone he'd be more willing to give up, especially when compared to a guy like Matisse Thybulle or, god forbid, Tyrese Maxey. You can read more about why Kyle thinks the Sixers should be willing to give up, here.
There's been a considerable amount of smoke coming out of both Brooklyn and Philadelphia in recent days surrounding a possible James Harden trade, one that originally seemed like it only had a chance of happening as a sign-and-trade this summer but now suddenly has more legs in the days leading up to Thursday's NBA trade deadline.
As recently as Friday, there was a new report from Shams Charania of The Athletic suggesting that the Nets were softening their stance on possibly trading the superstar in-season, rather than risk losing him in free agency this summer. The latest report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, however, may have Philly fans pumping the breaks on their trade deadline party plans.
According to the duo, the Sixers and Nets have had precisely one conversation about Harden, and it didn't go well for Daryl Morey and Co.
When Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey reached out to Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks on Jan. 11, they started with the usual pleasantries of basketball executives still a month away from Thursday's NBA trade deadline.
Who do you like on our roster? Here's who I like on yours.
Eventually, Morey spoke up on the true intention of his call.
"What about James?"
"James who?" Marks responded.
The Nets do have two James -- Johnson and Harden.
"No," Marks said flatly.
That exchange four weeks ago represents the single, direct communication between Morey and Marks this season, sources told ESPN. However brief the conversation, messages were delivered in each direction: The Sixers planned a pursuit of Harden, and the Nets had no intention of surrender.
With three days to go until the trade deadline, this is where the dialogue has remained. Yes, Morey could still pick up the phone and call Marks this week. The Sixers' ownership group have a strong relationship with Nets owner Joe Tsai, so communication can happen on that level, too. [espn.com]
The Nets can say that all they want, but it's Harden's recent actions that suggest he might already be planning his exit. And while a sign-and-trade is the more likely possibility, there's also the possibility that Harden simply walks and the Nets get nothing in return after paying a king's ransom for Harden just over a year ago. And if they fall short of winning the ultimately prize this season — which certainly could sway Harden's decision — then they'll really be left looking foolish.
The reason why some believe the 32-year-old guard might be planning an exit — beyond what Woj and Shelburne call Harden's "private grousing about Nets coaches, teammates and the organization" that's made its way around the league — is because he has been on the fact that Harden and his team are once again in the market for an agent, something he hasn't had in several years. However, when he tried to work his way out of Houston before the 2020 season, Harden did employ a pair of agents to help facilitate a trade.
He's reportedly done that again.
Once again, sources told ESPN, Harden and his manager have been searching for an agent to partner and navigate the situation -- whether that's free agency, a sign-and-trade to leave the Nets after the season, staying on a new deal, or even a trade prior to Thursday's deadline. [espn.com]
Harden already had a chance to sign an extension with the Nets in the fall and turned that down, saying he looked forward to testing free agency in the offseason for the first time in his career. Maybe he still plans on doing that. Or maybe the idea of a reunion with Morey and the chance to play alongside the MVP frontrunner in Joel Embiid has changed his mind.
In the immediate future, all that matters is whether or not the Nets believe they stand a chance at bringing him back next season — and whether or not their level of belief sinks to a point where they'd be willing to cut their losses now, despite their current place in the standings, and trade Harden to a rival before Thursday's deadline. If they are, then the question becomes how much should Morey and the Sixers be willing to part with to land Harden.
If you believe the latest from ESPN, it doesn't seem like there's been a lot of movement on the Sixers end when it comes to Harden, but these are just the kind of back-and-forths you'd expect through the media in the days leading up to the deadline. Stay tuned, because it's going to get interesting. And don't worry, we've got you covered with all the live updates and analysis you need as news breaks in our rumor tracker...
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