Home Play by Mail Nets trade James Harden to 76ers in deal involving Ben Simmons, source says

Nets trade James Harden to 76ers in deal involving Ben Simmons, source says

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Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden during a game against the Phoenix Suns at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 1.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Ben Simmons got his wish, a trade from Philadelphia. The 76ers got their second superstar, with James Harden coming in a blockbuster multiplayer trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

The Sixers sent disgruntled star Simmons, guard Seth Curry and center Andre Drummond to the Nets as part of a deal for Harden. The Sixers will also get Paul Millsap and the Nets will get draft picks, according to people with direct knowledge of the decision.

The move was confirmed Thursday by the people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been announced.

The move came just five days after coach Steve Nash said the Nets would not trade Harden and just 13 months after acquiring the 2018 NBA MVP to play with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But Harden could have left this summer as a free agent and the Nets decided it wasn’t worth the wait, ending their Big Three experience after the trio played just 16 games together.

Simmons hasn’t played this season for the Sixers following a trade request centered largely on hurt feelings after last season’s playoff loss. Simmons averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists over four seasons with Philadelphia, which removed him from LSU, where he only played one season.

His defining moment as a Sixer came when he let through a wide-opening dunk against Atlanta in the second round of last year’s playoffs that would have tied the game at the end of Game 7.

Simmons was hurt by criticism from teammate Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers over his role in Philly’s early playoff exit.

Simmons made a surprise return to the Sixers shortly before the season opener, but was promptly kicked out of practice and suspended for one game. The punishment didn’t matter, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft had no intention of playing. He then referred to mental health issues.

Harden was expected to miss his fourth straight game on Thursday with a hamstring injury as trade rumors escalated.

The Nets acquired the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets in a deal last January, with the idea that Harden, Durant and Irving would be too powerful to stop. The Nets loaded up for a title run with three of the league’s highest-paid players, but a championship run with them never materialized.

Both Harden and Irving were injured last year in the playoffs, and the Nets lost in the second round to eventual champion Milwaukee. With Irving only joining the Nets in December and Durant injured in January, the Nets only got two games from their Big Three this season.

They’re 2-10 since Durant sprained his left knee, an injury that could hold him up until the All-Star break. With Irving ineligible to play home games because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 as required by New York City, it has placed a heavy burden on Harden. Harden can become a free agent after the season, although he could get his $47.3 million player option back.

The 76ers get an MVP-worthy year from Embiid and team president Daryl Morey — who was in the front office with Houston when Harden played for the Rockets — struck the delay deal to ensure the Sixers have plenty for the championship push.

ESPN first reported the deal.