Nets and Sixers complete blockbuster trade hours before deadline

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SB Nation

James Harden [left] and Ben Simmons [right] were traded for each other on Thursday.

Christian Tate, Sports Reporter

James Harden, just a year after forcing his way out of Houston via demanding a trade, has put on a repeat performance for the Nets-Rockets trade’s anniversary. 

Harden, the eight-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA guard, has been officially traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in a move that had been rumored long before the deadline started looming. James isn’t the only disgruntled star player moving teams during this trade though, as the package for him includes three-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons. 

In a seeming match made in heaven, the two stars swap teams amid reports of discomfort and tension between the players and their respective organizations. The official package includes James Harden and Paul Millsap for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first round draft picks. Here’s the story on why both players wanted out:

‘The Ben Simmons Saga’, as it has been dubbed by many sports personalities familiar with the situation, started months ago with the end of Game 7 in the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals. After Simmons and the team turned in disappointing performances during that run, many players and organization members [including star center Joel Embiid and Head Coach Doc Rivers], threw Simmons under the proverbial bus and blamed his hesitance and down right inability to score as one of the main reasons the series was lost. 

In response to their comments and the history of fit problems that existed between Simmons and Embid, Simmons would request a trade from the Sixers and take his demand public by announcing that he would not suit up for the team in the preseason or report to training camp. 

This would then begin the talk of trades around the league, invading NBA discourse with ideas of what team would trade for a player with such amazing upside but horrendous downsides. Teams continued to float around the proverbial water cooler as the Sixers general manager, Daryl Morey, refused any trade that wouldn’t result in a star player suiting up for the Sixers. 

Cue the recent drama with the Brooklyn Nets and their star guard, James Harden. Or more specifically, the swirling drama with the other always-controversial Nets star guard, Kyrie Irving and his part-time player status. It is well-known that Kyrie Irivng is one of the few unvaccinated players in the NBA amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

His want to remain unvaccinated coupled with the mandates in the city of New York have created both a tense atmosphere and unprecedented situation within the Nets organization, with Irivng being sidelined in every home game and only being allowed to play away games. This tension would reach the other players, as Irving’s “part-time player” status would rub some of his teammates the wrong way and disrupt the chemistry on the team. 

This alleged frustration, coupled with multiple lingering injuries hindering his own play, would continue to break down the relationship between Harden and the Brooklyn Nets. Harden has only played in four of his last 10 games and has averaged a subpar 18 points per game on 34% from the field and 25% from the three-point line during that stretch, a far cry from the superstar player we know him to be. 

Despite Harden not formally requesting a trade, his discomfort and irritation with the situation in Brooklyn was apparent and palpable. This would only help stir the rumors of the two players being traded for one another, given the connections between Daryl Morey and James Harden, and the rest is trade deadline history. 

I, for one, am happy that the Sixers can now move forward, putting this entire saga behind them as they look to the future and start preparing to make a real push to the playoffs. There were no winners in this game that Simmons and the Sixers were playing, but the biggest loser was Embiid as his MVP-caliber season was being wasted with every game Simmons sat out. 

As for the other big-time player involved in this trade, I cannot blame James Harden for being irritated with becoming stuck in a situation he did not sign up for. This team was built for a three-man offensive engine and the team was missing one of its most important cogs due to a rather petty decision. 

In conclusion, both teams have moved on from these players, and I can only hope for the best for both of them as they try to thrive in their new environments.