Rumors persist around 76ers interest in James Harden

James Harden
James Harden looks on during the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The rumor mill continued to churn on Monday about James Harden, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey, has his eyes set on bringing in Harden over the summer, according to a new report from The Athletic.

It is the second report this month that linked Morey’s thinking to waiting to try and pull off a sign and trade to move Simmons and acquire Harden. Marc Stein reported something similar last Monday.

Simmons and the 76ers have remained at an impasse all season and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. Philadelphia will hold onto Simmons past the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline unless they’re “blown away” by an offer, The Athletic reported.

Simmons has four years and $147 million left on his max deal, but he has not played all season for the 76ers. He informed the club in October that he was not mentally ready to play for the organization this season and he needed professional help to work on his mental health.

Any sign and trade between Philadelphia and Brooklyn would take some significant financial maneuvering to make a deal work, and Philly would have to clear Tobias Harris’ contract from their books.

The perception that Morey is favoring waiting indicates confidence in himself that he could pull off such a blockbuster deal. Harden did turn down a contract extension with the Nets in October, but has never expressed any dissatisfaction with the organization.

In fact, Harden has expressed his admiration for Brooklyn several times, including after he declined the option.

“I love it here, I feel at home. It’s nothing to worry about. … I don’t plan on leaving this organization,” Harden told ESPN at the time.

However, things could have changed over the course of the season as the team has gone through ebbs and flows and the drama between Kyrie Irving and his vaccination status played out. Brooklyn remains a championship contender and sits a half-a-game back of the Miami Heat for first in the East.

Morey and Harden have very obvious history from their time in Houston together, and Philadelphia came close to adding Harden last year in a massive deal before Brooklyn’s offer won out. Morey’s intentions appear to be making the team better for the benefit of Joel Embiid.

“I think what everyone sees what’s happening with Joel and how special that is, and all of our reaction including mine is we have to do whatever we can to help him,” Morey said during an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic last week. “And that reaction is correct, but I think it’s the initial reaction that that means that we should just get the best thing possible in February. I think that leads you to a bad place. It’s precisely because Joel is playing so amazing that this deal has to be the one that addresses our needs, address our defense, which isn’t playoff good enough at this point.”