While the Nets began to navigate the next month without Kevin Durant, a report appeared on Monday questioning whether James Harden would be in Brooklyn past this season.
The report from Marc Stein detailed a growing notion around the league over Harden’s openness to relocating this summer. This all stems from Philadephia President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey’s reported preferred scenario heading into the NBA trade deadline.
“Perhaps (Joel Embiid) has also been sold on a concept that executives with a growing number of rival teams say they see as Morey’s new preferred scenario: Keeping Simmons beyond the trade deadline to exhaust every last possibility for executing a complicated sign-and-trade in the offseason that finally brings James Harden to Philadelphia and routes Simmons to Brooklyn,” Stein said wrote Monday on his substack.
“Complicated is a polite description for such a deal — Yet it must be noted that there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden’s reported openness to relocation this summer — after he turned down a lucrative extension from the Nets in October — to give Morey the encouragement he needs to wait.”
Harden declined a contract extension in October and would become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in 2023. Harden can opt into a $47.4 million contract for the 2022-23 season and sign a four-year extension worth $223 million this offseason.
The Nets superstar has also expressed his love for Brooklyn countless times, including after declining to sign the extension.
“I love it here, I feel at home. It’s nothing to worry about. … I don’t plan on leaving this organization,” Harden said at the time.
The complicated logistics of a sign and trade between Philadelphia, as Stein noted, add a layer to any sort of scenario and Brooklyn would likely ask for more than just Simmons in any deal.
However, things have certainly taken an interesting turn this season between injuries and COVID. While the Nets remain one of the top teams in the East, they’ve gone through some tough times of late and will now be without Kevin Durant for at least a month due to a sprained MCL.
The situation with Kyrie Irving and his unvaccinated status has also not made the situation in Brooklyn any easier. New York City’s vaccine mandate has prevented him from playing home games and the drama from all of it may not help quell rumors that Harden could be open to leaving.
The Nets take on the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, where they’re expected to have Harden and Irving in the lineup.