January 27, 2022
Despite recent reports on multiple fronts that the Sixers are eyeing an offseason Ben Simmons trade that would bring back superstar James Harden from the Nets in a potential sign-and-trade — rather than trying to piece something together at the trade deadline — ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is receiving different intel.
According to Woj, not only are the Nets convinced that Harden will be back based on their own conversations with the veteran guard, but they're going so far as to not even listen to any potential offers from teams like the Sixers, who have reportedly been interested in Harden since before the Rockets dealt him to the Nets last year. And that tracks given that their president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, has a longstanding relationship with Harden.
So while recent reports from Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic and Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer suggest the Sixers prefer to wait for Harden this summer, this latest salvo from the Nets' side sets up a scenario in which the Sixers could be left holding the proverbial bag.
The Brooklyn Nets won't listen to trade-deadline overtures for All-NBA guard James Harden, a resolve rooted in Harden's repeated insistences to ownership and management that he is committed to staying and winning a championship with the franchise, sources told ESPN.
Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks are buoyed not only by Harden's consistent internal stance but the shared public and private belief among superstars Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving that the three make the Nets an unstoppable team when playing together. ...
The Philadelphia 76ers' plans for a potential pursuit of Harden this summer have been no secret anywhere in the league, but the Sixers have yet to make the Nets a trade offer ahead of the Feb. 10 deadline, sources said. The Nets don't plan to engage any team -- including the Sixers -- that might try to pry Harden ahead of his possible free agency this summer, sources said. [espn.com]
However, there are varying reports on just how committed Harden is to Brooklyn, with a report from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggesting Harden may want a change of scenery and Kendrick Perkins of all people recently saying that Harden's camp is telling Philly that the All-Star wants to join Joel Embiid on the Sixers.
So at this point, it's more of a "Who do you believe?" question than anything else.
Of course the Nets are going to say that everything is great between them and Harden and that they fully expect he'll be back next season. But even if they don't opt to do a Simmons-for-Harden sign-and-trade, there's no guarantee that Harden is back at all, as he has a player option for next season that he could simply not exercise. If he did that, he could sign with any team in free agency, including the Sixers, and the Nets would get nothing back in return. What an epic backfire that would be.
For the Sixers part, it's also worth wondering how much of this is smoke to try to get the best offers for Ben Simmons that they can get before the trade deadline arrives in two weeks. It's at that point that we'll get a much better understanding of how this is all going to play out.
If Simmons is still on the Sixers when the Feb. 10 deadline passes, an offseason sign-and-trade suddenly looks more realistic, regardless of the message the Nets are trying to send publicly. If he's dealt elsewhere, all of this is moot anyway.
Of course, there's a third option, one in which the Sixers deal Simmons for some smaller pieces and then sign Harden anyway as a free agent in the offseason. But let's get through the trade deadline before going down that rabbit hole.
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