First and foremost, the Brooklyn Nets need to focus on having a healthy roster by the time that the playoffs start in mid-April. That should be the main concern right now, and once that (hopefully) happens, the focus should be on winning a title in June. There have been distractions along the way but most recently, reports have been swirling about James Harden’s future.
Harden didn’t sign a contract extension with Brooklyn back in October and if he doesn’t opt into his 2022-23 player option, there’s a chance that he’ll be telling New York goodbye. If he were to do so, that’d mean that he’d be passing up on a four-year, $227.2 million max extension.
However, that seems to be what Daryl Morey and the Sixers are holding out for because the likelihood of a Ben Simmons trade occurring over the next seven days is low. Morey’s asking price remains insanely high, which is why the Kings recently pulled out of the race for Simmons.
Landing Harden is a nice thought for Philadelphia because the organization has been without its star point guard all season. But has Harden been used as a means of distraction from what’s been happening with Simmons?
Will Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden end up in Philadelphia?
The Sixers’ No. 1 draft pick in 2016 requested a trade seven months ago, yet technically he’s still a member of Philadelphia’s team. Simmons hasn’t played in an NBA game since last June when the Sixers were ousted out of the playoffs by Trae Young and the Hawks.
Simmons said that he wouldn’t play in another game for Philadelphia. That turned into him returning to the area after listing his two properties (in the city and New Jersey) for sale. He practiced with the Sixers and was kicked out. After that happened, Simmons said that his mental health had worsened and that he wasn’t prepared to play.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne released a piece (subscription required) detailing Simmons’ current situation with Philadelphia. Spoiler alert: it’s not good.
"“By all accounts, he is in great physical shape. But according to sources close to Simmons and within the Sixers organization, he continues to tell the team and those who represent him that he is not mentally ready to get back on the court again. Not now and not ever in Philadelphia.”"
It makes sense why Sixers fans (and Morey) are clinging to the hope that Harden will make the short trek from Brooklyn to Philadelphia during the offseason. The Simmons’ drama started bad and it’s only gotten worse.
It’s what has increased the talking points about Harden teaming up with Morey for a second time. If it weren’t for Simmons, the Sixers wouldn’t have to explore the possibilities of a sign-and-trade deal.
Harden’s expressed his commitment to the Nets but until he opts into his player option with Brooklyn, there’s going to be talk about him moving on from the Nets in favor of one of their Eastern Conference opponents.
If only a team could execute a trade for Simmons ahead of the Feb. 10 deadline but there’s one major roadblock – Morey.