Although a report on Friday stated that the Sixers intend to pursue James Harden prior to this week’s trade deadline and that the Nets are open to talking, it doesn’t sound as if any discussions have occurred between the two teams since then.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey reached out to Sean Marks of the Nets about a month ago to ask about Harden and was flatly turned down. That exchange it still the only direct communication between Morey and Marks this season, per ESPN’s duo.
Both Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report have also heard the two teams haven’t talked at all lately, with Pompey citing a source who referred to the conversation a month ago as “non-productive.”
Fischer suggests the Nets have no plans to discuss any Harden trade scenarios before Thursday’s trade deadline and Pompey hears from one source that Simmons won’t be traded until at least the draft. However, Wojnarowski and Shelburne aren’t yet closing the door on the possibility that the two teams will take this week, and neither is Pompey, who says Brooklyn and Philadelphia are going through third parties and back-channels to get information.
“It’s the most bizarre thing,” a source told Pompey. “It’s almost as if they are playing a game of cat and mouse … because of all the tampering [implications].”
Despite his assertion that the Nets have no plans to discuss Harden this week, Fischer does say there are people within the organization who have openly mentioned their interest in a swap involving Harden and Ben Simmons. Meanwhile, two people who have “significant history” with Harden believed he’s interested in the possibility of joining the Sixers, sources tell Wojnarowski and Shelburne.
Still, ESPN’s report suggests the two teams have a difference of opinions on which side has more leverage. According to Woj and Shelburne, the Sixers believe they shouldn’t have to add many assets to make a Simmons/Harden swap because the Nets risk losing their star guard for nothing in the offseason. But Brooklyn, recognizing all the talent and assets the capped-out Sixers may have to sacrifice to sign Harden outright this summer, would push for a significant package.
“Why would Brooklyn accept anything less now than the assets it would cost Philly to unload contracts and create the space this summer?” one GM said to ESPN.
Here are some more updates from ESPN, Bleacher Report, and The Philadelphia Inquirer on the Simmons/Harden situation:
- The Nets would want additional pieces besides Simmons in any deal for Harden, but Pompey says the Sixers aren’t willing to include Tyrese Maxey in any trade and view Matisse Thybulle as “close to untouchable.” When the two teams had a brief discussion last month, Philadelphia asked if Brooklyn was interested in Paul Reed and Isaiah Joe, says Pompey. According to Fischer, Reed and Joe are the two players most frequently mentioned by rival executives as possible 76ers trade candidates.
- Harden doesn’t currently have an agent, but he and manager Lorenzo McCloud are looking to hire representation, at least temporarily, with his free agency looming, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne.
- Without an agent to talk to, the Nets have to rely on direct communication with Harden, which may be one reason why the team has had a hard time getting a read on his intentions. ESPN’s duo describes the partnership between the Nets and Harden as “murky,” noting that the former MVP has said he’s committed to the team, but his actions – including “private grousing” about Nets coaches, teammates, and the organization – have hinted otherwise. Pompey hears from sources that some people in the organization are “privately questioning (Harden’s) commitment to remaining in Brooklyn, and becoming frustrated with the uncertainty.”
- Although Kevin Durant wants Harden to stay in Brooklyn, he wants a committed Harden, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, who say Durant isn’t telling Nets ownership or management what they should do at the deadline. A source tells Pompey that key Brooklyn players wouldn’t be hugely disappointed if Harden is ultimately moved, due to uncertainty about his true feelings.
- Sources tell Fischer that some people around Simmons want him to return to the court for the Sixers if he’s not dealt at the deadline. However, multiple people associated with Simmons’ representation insist that’s not going to happen, Fischer writes.
- In trade discussions with the Hawks and Kings, the Sixers broached the idea of attaching Tobias Harris to Simmons, but they haven’t engaged in many talks about Harris beyond that, Fischer says. Multiple league sources who have spoken to Bleacher Report have speculated that the Thunder could be a willing trade partner if Philadelphia is motivated to get off of Harris’ contract.