The careers of James Harden and Ben Simmons have been intertwined earlier than. At the beginning of final season, again when the bearded one-time MVP was doing all the pieces he may to pressure his means out of the Houston Rockets, Simmons was reportedly the centerpiece of the Philadelphia 76ers’ commerce provide for Harden. It made sense: Daryl Morey, the architect of Harden’s excellent Rockets groups throughout their time collectively in Houston, had simply jumped to the 76ers, and badly needed to pair his previous star together with his new star (Joel Embiid).
Finally, the Sixers completed second within the Harden sweepstakes, as Houston selected a bundle of future draft picks from the Brooklyn Nets fairly Philly’s Simmons-centric package deal. The aftershock of that nearly commerce continues to be reverberating greater than a 12 months later.
Simmons went on to have a superb season with the Sixers, ending second in Defensive Participant of the 12 months voting, incomes his third All-Star nod, and enjoying a key function on a crew that clinched the No. 1 seed within the East heading into the playoffs. That’s the place all of it fell aside: Simmons famously struggled because the Sixers had been upset within the second spherical by the Atlanta Hawks, with missed free throws and an aversion to making an attempt even vast open dunks defining his very public decline. Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid kind of threw him below the bus after the sequence was over.
Simmons hasn’t needed to play for Philadelphia since. Simmons filed a commerce demand, regardless of being below contract for the subsequent three seasons. The 76ers acknowledged Simmons’ want to be traded, however they nonetheless haven’t discovered a deal they’re keen to simply accept.
Two hours away in Brooklyn, Harden had what was in the end a making an attempt first season together with his new crew. The Nets had been the title favorites on paper heading into the playoffs, however Harden went down within the first minute of the primary recreation in Brooklyn’s second spherical sequence in opposition to the Milwaukee Bucks. Kyrie Irving went down with an harm too later within the sequence. A Nets Large 3 that was nearly by no means utterly wholesome through the common season was once more severely compromised at crucial a part of the season, and the Bucks finally superior in a hard-fought seven-game sequence.
As the brand new season approached and Simmons’ commerce demand was taking the information cycle hostage, one other tremendous weird NBA storyline emerged: Irving’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine. When New York Metropolis handed a mandate simply earlier than coaching camp that gamers would have obtain a shot of the vaccine or be ineligible to play, Irving was banished away from the crew — not less than till the Nets went again on their phrase and let him play highway video games beginning in January.
The price of Irving’s absence has been extra stress on Harden and co-star Kevin Durant. Now 32 years previous, Harden began gradual whereas he tried to regulate to the league’s new foul drawing guidelines and tried to get proper from the hamstring harm suffered in final season’s playoffs. Harden has nonetheless been superior this season, he’s simply been much less superior than he normally is, placing up his worst numbers since he ultimate 12 months in OKC.
Harden continues to be enjoying a ton of minutes — 37 per night time, to be precise, the second most within the NBA behind Fred VanVleet.
If Irving was a full-time participant, Harden would probably be feeling much less pressure proper now. Sadly, Kyrie continues to be foolishly refusing to get the jab. How does Harden really feel about that?
Did we point out Harden goes to be a free agent after this 12 months? After turning down an extension provide from the Nets simply earlier than the season, Harden would be the largest identify in the marketplace this summer time. He’s by no means been an unrestricted free agent in his profession earlier than, and there have been rumblings he intends to check the open market, even when there stays a powerful chance he indicators again with Brooklyn.
Obtained all that? Now let’s speak concerning the newest spherical of Harden-for-Simmons rumors which have dominated the NBA water cooler speak to begin this week.
Simmons commerce speak has ignited once more with the NBA commerce deadline simply weeks away. With Joel Embiid having an MVP-level season, are the Sixers actually threat throwing that away to play hardball with Simmons? It appears so. The Sixers are reportedly nonetheless infatuated with Harden, they usually’re holding onto Simmons with the hope of creating good on the swap once more after this 12 months.
By way of Shams Charania of The Athletic:
However a number of sources, together with folks with direct data of the crew’s pondering and in addition from rival groups concerned on the Simmons entrance, inform The Athletic that the 76ers are believed to want to attend with a purpose to pursue Harden or one other celebrity within the offseason and thus wish to save Simmons for that potential sign-and-trade fairly than take what’s accessible on the present market.
Whereas Harden stays invested in Brooklyn’s push for a championship this season, his eyes are beginning to wander. From Jake Fischer at Bleacher Report:
Harden has lately knowledgeable a number of confidants—together with former teammates and coaches—of his curiosity in exploring different alternatives exterior of Brooklyn this summer time, league sources advised B/R.
His new metropolis is also a problem. In accordance with a number of sources, Harden has not loved dwelling in Brooklyn, in comparison with his days as a central Houston magnate. Outdoors of the change in local weather, the chasm between state taxes in New York versus Texas is sort of apparent as nicely.
Once more, the Sixers are stated to be closely inquisitive about Harden if he desires out of Brooklyn. Harden has some curiosity within the Sixers, too. Whereas Philly received’t have any cap house this summer time, they may have arguably the very best commerce chip in the marketplace in Simmons, so long as they don’t deal him on the commerce deadline.
Can a Simmons-for-Harden commerce truly occur?
Positive it may well. It makes a whole lot of sense for either side.
If Harden desires to depart Brooklyn, the Nets will probably accommodate him with the place he desires to go. Simmons can be an amazing return, and would slide in properly between Durant and Irving on the Nets.
The Harden-Embiid pairing would make the Sixers are championship contender within the East. Simmons would carry defensive versatility and depth to Brooklyn, and his lack of taking pictures would look much less disastrous subsequent to 2 ace exterior threats in KD and Kyrie.
It makes an excessive amount of sense for it to not occur. It looks as if it will fulfill all events concerned, too.
The Nets will wish to re-sign Harden, at the start. But when Harden desires to depart, getting Simmons in return is a pleasant comfort.
The weird Simmons-Kyrie-Harden storylines are all converging. Perhaps Simmons will get traded by the Feb. deadline this season in spite of everything. But when he doesn’t, the Simmons-for-Harden smoke isn’t going away.
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