There was a moment last season when we very nearly went down a path that never would have resulted in Ben Simmons’ ugly stand-off with the 76ers.
We know now that a blockbuster trade that would have essentially swapped Simmons for James Harden in a package deal during the 2020/21 NBA season fell over at the 11th hour.
The deal reportedly collapsed over Houston’s desire to include rookie first-rounder Tyrese Maxey in the deal; Philadelphia baulked, Simmons and Maxey stayed put and Harden joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
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Nearly 12 months later, ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith believes the dots could be connected on a revived deal involving the two parties.
We know of course about Simmons’ hold-out and desperate for a trade, and we also know that Harden declined a three-year, $US161 million ($A214m) extension offered by the Nets.
Harden is reportedly holding out for the possibility of a four-year, $US227m ($A300m) deal in the next off-season. It leaves open the possibility that he won’t remain with the Nets.
The problem Philadelphia has is finding a suitable trade partner. Simmons may be a disgruntled headache, but he comes with a high pedigree and a lot of talent. You don’t simply give Defensive Player of the Year-calibre talents away for nothing.
But in Harden, GM Daryl Morey may have the opportunity to reunite with the superstar he brought to Houston from the Thunder and very nearly brought to Philadelphia last year.
“If James Harden didn’t end up in Brooklyn he was going to go to Philly with Daryl Morey. He still might end up there next year by the way, because he ain’t sign no extension,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take.
“If you’re Daryl Morey you have options. Your option of Ben Simmons possibly sitting down for the year, let me tell you why it makes sense. If you sit Ben for the year and James Harden tells Brooklyn ‘I want out, I wanna go to Philly with Daryl Morey’… (a trade) is what you can do.
“James Harden is not going to do that right now, or in the throes of this season. But he could do it at the end of this season.”
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The 76ers may have to be patient, and be prepared to let Simmons sit on the sidelines collecting millions for doing nothing but white-ant the organisation.
But if they wind up with James Harden, the long game may be worth playing.
According to the New York Post, however, the Nets are confident that Harden will eventually commit his future to Brooklyn.
“You know, the reality is I haven’t thought much about it because James loves it here. He’s totally locked-in,” coach Steve Nash said.
“So, while we would’ve loved to have signed him before the deadline, it was James’ prerogative when he re-signs.
Harden himself gave no indication he’s keen to leave.
“I’ve had multiple talks with [GM Bobby Marks] and [team owner Joe Tsai]. I don’t see myself anywhere else, honestly,“ Harden said.
“I want to bring a championship to the city. I’m here.”