Tobias Harris

Sixers Notes: Harden, Rivers, Green, Butler, Offseason

It has become clear over the course of the season – and especially in the playoffs – that the current version of James Harden isn’t the same one who earned the MVP award in 2018 with the Rockets, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, who suggests that recurring hamstring issues over the last couple years have slowed down the Sixers guard.

“Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden,” Sixers star Joel Embiid said on Thursday, after the team lost Game 6 to the Heat and was eliminated from the postseason. “But that’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a play-maker.”

While it’s true that Harden is still an elite play-maker, he’s being paid like he’s also an elite scorer, with a $44.3MM salary this season and a $47.4MM player option for 2022/23.

There’s a belief in some league circles that Harden isn’t fully healthy and has bounce-back potential, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. However, according to Bontemps, the soon-to-be 33-year-old is viewed by many executives as more of a $25-30MM per year player than a superstar who should warrant a five-year, $270MM commitment this offseason.

During an ESPN appearance (video link), Amar’e Stoudemire, who saw Harden up close as a member of the Nets’ coaching staff this season, questioned the guard’s conditioning and advised the Sixers against offering a maximum-salary contract.

Harden, who will be eligible for a contract extension if he picks up his player option or a new free agent contract if he turns it down, suggested after Thursday’s loss that he would be open to taking less than his max, and an Eastern Conference scout who spoke to Bontemps said the 76ers would be wise to go that route.

“If there were any logic whatsoever, the answer (to giving him a max deal) would be no,” the scout said.

Here’s more out of Philadelphia:

  • Asked after Thursday’s loss about his job security, head coach Doc Rivers defended his track record, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).I don’t worry about my job,” Rivers said. “I think I do a terrific job. If you don’t, then you should write it. I worked my butt off to get this team here. When I first got here, no one picked us to be anywhere. Again this year, the same thing.”
  • After leaving Game 6 due to a left knee injury, Sixers swingman Danny Green will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the damage, a source tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There’s “significant concern” that Green’s injury is a serious one, as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps relays.
    [UPDATE: Danny Green Diagnosed With Torn Left ACL, LCL]
  • Having eliminated the 76ers from the postseason, former Sixer Jimmy Butler rubbed salt in the wound, according to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, who notes that the Heat forward said in his postgame interview he wishes he were still playing with Embiid. On his way to the locker room after the game, Butler also referenced the 2019 offseason, when Philadelphia invested heavily in Tobias Harris as Butler departed for Miami. “Tobias Harris over me?!” Butler yelled, as captured by Miami’s WPLG Local 10 Sports (video link).
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) and Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype both preview the Sixers’ upcoming offseason, examining some of the biggest questions facing the franchise in the coming weeks and months.

Eastern Notes: Smart, Hill, Harris, Bulls

The Celtics only have one player listed on the injury report for Game 2 against the Bucks on Tuesday but it’s a significant one. Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart is questionable due to a right quad contusion, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

“He’s a tough guy who’s going to try to play through things,” coach Ime Udoka said. “We’ll get him some treatment (Monday) and see how he feels tomorrow.”

Smart was already dealing with the injury entering Game 1, then took a couple of hits to that area.

It’s more than just pain tolerance. It’s tightness and restriction of movement as well,” Udoka said.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Bucks guard George Hill won’t play in Game 2, coach Mike Budenholzer told Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link) and other media members. Hill has an abdominal injury. “He was doing a vitamin, doing some individual work,” Budenholzer said. “He’s doing a little bit more in his vitamins, but not anything significant or any kind of new update.”
  • Tobias Harris is no longer the weakest link on the Sixers’ defensive unit, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic writes. Rather, teams are trying to attack other defenders while staying away from Harris. The addition of James Harden and emergence of Tyrese Maxey has reduced Harris’ offensive stats but he’s contributing at the other end. “I definitely have more energy to go and guard somebody,” Harris quipped.
  • Zach LaVine‘s unrestricted free agency and Patrick Williams‘ development are among the offseason questions looming over the Bulls, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Harris, Lineup Changes

Sixers center Joel Embiid insists that his sprained right thumb won’t cause him to miss any playoff games, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. A report earlier today said an initial exam showed a ligament tear, but that can’t be confirmed until Embiid undergoes an MRI, which will happen when the team returns to Philadelphia.

He managed to play 39 minutes in today’s game while wearing a wrap on his thumb and a brace on his hand. Afterward, he told reporters that he’ll wait for the offseason if he needs to have surgery.

“I want to play, so obviously got to listen to what they have to say,” Embiid said, referring to the team’s medical staff. “So, I would imagine that I keep playing and probably do something after the season.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Embiid may face a fine for his reaction to the officiating after today’s loss, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid gave a “golf clap” to the referees as he left the court after the game and later insinuated that they were trying to force the series to a fifth game. “I’m going to take my own advice and not complain about fouls,” he said, “but like I was doing at the end of the game: They did a great job. I admire the job that they did today. To me, it felt like they had one job coming in here tonight. And they got it done. Congrats to them, tonight.”
  • Tobias Harris is dealing with a blood spot in his left eye as a result of being hit during Game 3, Pompey tweets. He’s able to play through it, logging 41 minutes in today’s game. Meanwhile, Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia examines how Harris has accepted a new role in the offense since the trade for James Harden in February. “Tobias has had to make more changes than anybody on our team,” coach Doc Rivers said. “And he keeps doing it without complaint, and it’s such a great example for what a good teammate should be. And he’s been doing it every night.”
  • The Sixers, who were 16-16 on Christmas Day, were able to reinvent themselves as the season went along, observes Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. They have the fourth-best record in the league since then and were still evolving heading into the playoffs, Frank adds. Tyrese Maxey and Georges Niang became more reliable long-distance shooters, Paul Reed took over as the backup center, Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle had their playing time cut and Harden has given them an accomplished playmaker.

Rival Teams Expect Tobias Harris To Be Available This Summer

The Sixers explored potential trades involving Tobias Harris last month in case they had to clear cap room to sign James Harden in free agency, and those talks could result in a deal during the offseason, Brian Windhorst of ESPN says on his latest podcast.

“I’ve talked to league executives because I’m asking league executives a lot about Philly and everyone’s seen them for just a brief period of time,” Windhorst said. “But they’re already speculating what Tobias Harris trades they might look at this summer.” 

Now that he has acquired Harden, there has been speculation that president of basketball operations Daryl Morey might pursue another star to pair with him and Joel Embiid. He’d likely have to unload a lot of salary to make that happen, and a logical starting point is Harris, who will make $37.6MM next season and $39.3MM in 2023/24.

The Sixers reportedly talked to the Hawks and Kings about possibly dealing for Harris, and there was speculation that the Thunder might be willing to take on his salary if enough assets are attached. Philadelphia may find even more options this summer when teams have more room below the cap or tax.

Harris has been one of the mainstays of Philadelphia’s offense since being acquired in a trade with the Clippers three years ago. However, his scoring average and shots per game have both declined slightly this season and he appears to be looking at a further reduced role now that Harden has arrived.

Sixers Notes: Maxey, Millsap, Harris, Harden

Second-year Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, who has shifted over one position to starting shooting guard since James Harden joined the lineup, is off to a hot start as part of the new-look backcourt, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The 21-year-old is averaging 24.5 PPG while shooting 66.6% from the floor in his first two games with Harden.

Now that Harden has mostly taken over ball-handling duties, Maxey is able to function more as a scorer than as a set-up man.

“He’s actually playing the position now that he’s played his whole life,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “So in some ways, he’s very comfortable playing the way he’s playing.”

For the season, his first as a full-time starter, Maxey is averaging 17.2 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3.6 RPG, all career highs.

There’s more out of the City of Brotherly Love:

  • Sixers reserve big man Paul Millsap is excited for a fresh start in Philadelphia. Millsap, a four-time All-Star, revealed that the Sixers were the first club to recruit him in free agency last summer, per Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Millsap said the deal that sent him and Harden to the Sixers from the Nets was “meant to be.” Across four games with Philadelphia, the 37-year-old is averaging 5.5 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 11.0 MPG.
  • After the Sixers offloaded Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and future draft picks for All-NBA guard Harden and Millsap, a reduction in touches was in order for Philadelphia forward Tobias Harris. The 6’8″ vet appreciates the necessity of his new role in the club’s pecking order, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s what winning basketball is all about,” Harris said of the change. In his two games played with Harden thus far, Harris has taken a total of 18 shots from the floor, averaging just 9.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.0 APG. Across 51 total games this season, Harris is averaging 18.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 3.6 APG on .479/.347/.855 shooting splits.
  • Given that Harden has just successfully forced his way off a team with apathetic on-court performances for the second time in two NBA seasons, Tommy Beer of Basketball News opines that several other star players could follow suit, as has been happening for the past few seasons.

Sixers, Nets Engaged In Trade Talks On Tuesday

The Sixers and Nets engaged in trade discussions on Tuesday, multiple sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who says the two sides “bickered” over pieces to add to a hypothetical deal involving James Harden and Ben Simmons.

Despite the discussions, there doesn’t appear to be any traction on a Harden/Simmons blockbuster, according to Chris Mannix of Mannix says the Nets still remain publicly and privately steadfast against the idea of moving Harden during the season, believing that – despite the current nine-game losing streak – the team will be fine once it gets healthy.

Although the Nets have certainly publicly expressed their desire to retain Harden, Pompey isn’t convinced that the team’s private stance is as unwavering, citing one source who says Brooklyn’s decision-makers are split behind closed doors. Some people within the organization would be open to moving Harden now, believing he’s hurting team chemistry, according to Pompey.

Still, even if the Nets were open to the idea of trading Harden today or tomorrow, it seems unlikely that the two teams would be able to agree on a package. As others have reported and as Kyle Neubeck of reiterates, the Sixers have made it clear that Tyrese Maxey is unavailable this week and they’ve resisted the idea of offering Matisse Thybulle along with Simmons.

While it’s possible Philadelphia would be willing to add Seth Curry to its trade offer, even that’s a dubious proposition, a team source tells Neubeck. And even with Curry included, Mannix says it’s not clear whether that would move the needle enough for Brooklyn to make a deal.

Here’s more on the Sixers, Nets, and the Harden/Simmons situation:

  • The Sixers have had conversations with the Thunder about Tobias Harris, according to Pompey. However, one of Pompey’s sources downplayed those talks, suggesting they may have been instigated by Oklahoma City and adding that Harris has nothing to worry about. Even if Philadelphia is interested in moving Harris in a salary-dump deal, it’s unlikely to happen this week unless it’s part of a series of moves, since the forward is a key part of the current lineup.
  • As Neubeck writes, the Sixers clearly seem to be trying to signal to Brooklyn that they believe they’ll be able to clear the necessary cap space to sign Harden in the offseason without having to worry about a sign-and-trade. Sources tell Neubeck that Philadelphia has lined up a couple potential trade partners willing to take on Harris’ contract using cap space, presumably in the summer.
  • In that scenario, the idea for the 76ers would be to move Harris to one team this offseason and Simmons to another, taking back little – if any – salary in return, in order to clear cap room to sign Harden. While this is one path the Sixers could take, the fact that they’re putting it out there could just be a negotiating ploy to encourage the Nets to seriously consider moving Harden by Thursday’s deadline.
  • For his part, Harris is looking forward to getting through the trade deadline and being able to focus on basketball for the rest of the season, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays. “That will be good for us. Because you’re just hearing everybody’s name. I’ll just be honest, it’s one of those things … trade rumors always come around, even for guys around the NBA, but in this situation, yeah, I was reading an article and there were five guys on the top 10 list to be moved, whatever,” Harris said. “So, obviously don’t get twisted: that has an impact on guys’ mental, psyche, focus, all the way down the line. So we’ll see what happens.”
  • Asked again on Tuesday about the possibility of Simmons returning to the team if he’s not dealt before the deadline, Sixers center Joel Embiid again said that he’d be fine with that, per Bontemps. “Like I’ve been saying since the season started, I’m happy,” Embiid said. “Whoever wants to play is welcome. If someone wants to play, they’re welcome. But we’ve got guys here that want to be here, that show up every single night. … And if you want to be part of us, I am sure everybody is gonna be fine with it, but you got to show up. You got to want to be there. And I’m sure everybody is going to accept whoever that is.”

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.

Sixers, Nets Haven’t Engaged In Recent Trade Talks

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.

Sixers To Pursue Harden Before Deadline; Nets Open To Talking

The Sixers are expected to pursue Nets star James Harden in the days leading up to the February 10 trade deadline, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports that Brooklyn is now believed to be open to discussing a possible deal.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said last week that the Nets wouldn’t consider moving Harden at the deadline, but Charania’s latest report suggests the team isn’t closing the door on the possibility. Sources tell Charania the 76ers and Nets are expected to engage in talks about Ben Simmons and Harden before next Thursday.

According to Charania, Nets officials don’t have any urgency to make a trade involving Harden and still view their roster as championship-caliber as is. However, if Philadelphia is willing to sweeten the deal by attaching more assets – including players like Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, and/or Matisse Thybulle – to Simmons, Brooklyn will listen, in case there’s a deal to be made that makes the team more well-rounded as it pursues a title.

As Charania explains, there have been some concerns in Brooklyn about Harden’s playing style, since the former MVP’s tendency to dominate the ball and play at his own pace contrasts with the more “free-flowing, organic” approach employed by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Head coach Steve Nash has met with the trio to try to find a balance and optimize the offense, per Charania, but the team has yet to hit its stride. Of course, that’s in part because the three stars are so rarely available at the same time.

Still, unless they have major concerns about the on-court fit and Harden’s flight risk in the offseason, the Nets seem unlikely to do anything drastic in the next six days. They’d want a “significant haul” from the Sixers, Charania writes.

Philadelphia has long been focused on landing a star in any Simmons deal, with Harden and Bradley Beal among the players at the top of their wish list. The expectation had been that a player of that caliber wouldn’t become available until the offseason, when both Harden and Beal can opt out of their respective deals.

The Sixers have projected a willingness to extend their standoff with Simmons until then, with Kyle Neubeck of reporting today that a deadline deal involving the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up appears increasingly unlikely. If Harden is legitimately available ahead of the deadline though, or if the Wizards are willing to talk about Beal, that could accelerate Philadelphia’s timeline.

The 76ers also continue to discuss possible Simmons scenarios with other teams, according to Charania. Sources tell The Athletic that the Hawks have been the most engaged suitor in recent weeks, having discussed a framework that includes John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and draft picks.

The Timberwolves have also remained in touch with Philadelphia about Simmons and have been open to the idea of taking on Tobias Harris, says Charania. However, Minnesota isn’t willing to part with the draft assets the Sixers are seeking.

Eastern Trade Rumors: Pacers, Sixers, Hawks, Celtics, More

Although Domantas Sabonis‘ name has frequently surfaced in trade rumors in the last couple months, one executive who spoke to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said he doesn’t think the Pacers will move Sabonis unless they get a package like the one Orlando got for Nikola Vucevic last season. Chicago gave up two lightly-protected first-round picks and young center Wendell Carter Jr. for Vucevic, and took on Al-Farouq Aminu‘s multiyear contract in the deal.

The price will be significantly lower for other Pacers trade candidates, including Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb, who are both available, according to Scotto. Rival executives tell HoopsHype that Indiana is thought to be seeking a couple second-round picks for Holiday.

Scotto doesn’t specify an asking price for Lamb, but I imagine it will be a challenge for the Pacers to get positive value for the veteran wing — he’s having a down year and is earning more than $10MM.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the Eastern Conference from the latest episode of the HoopsHype Podcast:

  • When the Sixers and Hawks discussed Ben Simmons, they “briefly kicked around” a trade that would’ve involved Simmons, Tobias Harris, John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari, according to Scotto. That concept didn’t gain any traction though, as Atlanta has no interest in Harris.
  • Scotto has heard the Celtics did due diligence on Rockets center Daniel Theis, but says a reunion with the big man is less likely following last week’s Juan Hernangomez trade, since Hernangomez would’ve been the most logical salary-matching piece in any deal involving Theis. Scotto adds that rival executives believe Boston will hang onto Robert Williams, viewing him as part of the team’s current core.
  • The Hornets, Raptors, and Bulls are among the teams in the market for a center, says Scotto. The position has been an area of concern for Charlotte and Toronto for a while — Chicago has Vucevic, but would be interested in adding a backup.