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NBA

Harden-Ben Simmons deal heading in the right direction

According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, both sides are "absolutely engaged in trade discussions, I suspect they're going to get it done".

Update:
Harden-Ben Simmons deal heading in the right direction
Thearon W. HendersonAFP

The NBA trade market is heating up just hours before it is due to close (Thursday at 3pm ET / 12 noon PT). According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the chances of Brooklyn Nets trading James Harden for Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons are looking increasingly likely. He explained, “The teams are absolutely engaged in trade discussions.I know that people are saying things 'on the record' trying to act that it's not happening but it is absolutely happening. There is definite motivation from both sides to make this fall into place. The Sixers were out there yesterday, having trade negotiations with other teams, looking to clear roster spots, looking to move other players on their roster, including Tobias Harris, in what looks like an ancillary move to support a James Harden arrival. The issue is can they settle it by 3 o'clock tomorrow? Brooklyn are asking for Ben Simmon plus two or three pieces - draft picks and players on the Sixers' roster. The Sixers don't want to do that. We're in the deal zone, between Simmons and Harden. I suspect they're going to get it done, it's trending in that direction”.

Rumours of a possible swap deal have been doing the rounds since the start of the year. What started off as a joke on social media is now looking very real. Harden has been underachieving at a Nets side in decline. Simmons meanwhile has stubbornly refused to play for the Sixers since the 2021 playoffs. He has already lost 19 million dollars for his decision - a figure that will reach 31 million if he doesn't take part in the rest of the season with Philadelphia. The Australian is in the second year of his contract for 177 million over five seasons. He still has 145 million to earn until his arrangement expires in 2025.

The rumours started looking more serious when The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on 5 February that both franchises were open to negotiate with the hope of reaching an agreement - the unthinkable is now very real. Since then, Harden has missed three games in a row, supposedly with a muscular problem...

Harden and Morey

Harden is in the final year of his contract with Brooklyn… but he will be moving on if he decides not to accept the chance to renew for $47.3 million. The Beard could even refuse to  continue in New York and look for new challenges elsewhere. And that's where Daryl Morey, Sixers president and former GM at Houston Rockets, enters the picture. It was with the Rockets where Harden produced the best performances of his career, winning the MVP in 2018.

Morey believes there is no time to wait. He doesn't want to hold fire in case Harden decides to change his mind and hopes to unite the player with Joel Embiid so that the Sixers can aspire to win everything this season. However, Harden is no longer the player he was. His performance levels have dropped dramatically, as has his fitness - to a degree where he might even struggle to complete two consecutive games. His relationships with other stars is also an issue  - he didn't get on with Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook. And it appears his understanding with Irving and Durant isn't the best. Would pairing him with Embiid work? We'll see...

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