Latest On James Harden, Ben Simmons

2:32pm: While their trade talks with the Nets have gone nowhere, the Sixers “strongly believe” Harden won’t re-sign with Brooklyn when he reaches free agency and remain hopeful that the Nets will become more willing to engage in trade discussions before Thursday’s deadline, says Sam Amick of The Athletic.

1:42pm: With the trade deadline a little more than 48 hours away, there are conflicting reports about whether the Nets and Sixers still have a chance to complete this season’s biggest blockbuster.

Amid rumors that James Harden might be headed to Philadelphia in exchange for a package that includes Ben Simmons, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype hears that a trade definitely isn’t in the works right now.

“The Nets aren’t trading Harden,” an unidentified NBA executive told Scotto. “He’s staying, and they’ll take their chances in the playoffs. Maybe they’ll look to trade in the summer. They gave up too much to get him and have to see it through this year.”

Scotto adds that Brooklyn is focused on trying to improve the talent around its superstar trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The team has received calls about Joe Harris and Nic Claxton, but Harris’ value has dropped amid speculation that he will need a second opinion on the ankle injury that has sidelined him since mid-November. Claxton will be a restricted free agent this summer.

If Harden stays put, Simmons will likely remain with the Sixers, who will make another attempt to land Harden this summer, Scotto states. If Harden doesn’t work out, Wizards guard Bradley Beal could be another target, and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will have more options in the offseason trade market.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN contends that a Harden trade by Thursday remains possible, no matter what the teams are saying publicly. Even if the Nets and Sixers aren’t officially holding trade talks, sources tell Windhorst there have been “back-channel conversations and movement by intermediaries” regarding a Harden-Simmons swap. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the same thing earlier this week.

“It may come down to which side is more comfortable living with the status quo [if nothing happens],” one general manager said. “Both sides probably want to create leverage by saying they don’t need to do anything, but you can see why both have reason to.”

Windhorst confirms that both teams are pursuing other deals, with the Nets trying to move Harris and the Sixers seeking a taker for Tobias Harris, but he cautions that those talks might be smokescreens.

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