Making sense of the James Harden situation as NBA Trade Deadline approaches

James Harden
James Harden reacts during the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Is there finally a little clarity on what James Harden’s short-term future looks like with the Brooklyn Nets?

The answer, as has been the case for the past week, is complicated, but it appears the Philadelphia 76ers are unlikely to trade Ben Simmons before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That would eliminate the highest-profile suitor for Harden’s services and likely indicates that the Nets won’t move their superstar before the 3 p.m. deadline.

The latest report came a day after Steve Nash told reporters that the Nets had no plans to trade Harden, despite ongoing media speculation. However, the Inquirer was able to confirm a report from The Athletic that Nets may be open to sending Harden to Philly in a deal that included Ben Simmons.

The report noted that the two sides had been going through backchannels and third parties to gather information.

Conflicting reports had painted a murky picture of a situation that at best has frustrated one of the Nets’ best players and at worst could bring an early end to Harden’s time in Brooklyn.

Publically, the Nets are holding firm to the belief that they are a better team with Harden alongside fellow “Big 3” members Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And Brooklyn is taking Harden at his word that he wants to be here and win here.

As of now, there have been no conversations between the Nets and the Sixers. Separate reporting from both ESPN and Bleacher Report indicated conversations have not occurred between Brooklyn general Manager Sean Marks and Philly president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

The lone conversation between the two basketball execs took place a month ago and Marks rebuffed the idea of trading Harden, according to reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

The latest news does add some clarity to a situation that has appeared to change every other day as the Nets try to keep their head above water after losing eight straight. There is the possibility things change again before Thursday and Morey reaches out to the Nets to try and make a deal.

For now, it remains a wait-and-see scenario.

“I think James can speak better to that than I can,” said Kyrie Irving on the ongoing rumors and speculation. “We’ve had conversations, but I’m just getting back into the swing of things. How all those media plants start going around with rumors and stuff like that, I really do not concern myself with that. The few conversations that we’ve had, he’s been really committed, and we just hold him to his word. Obviously, when we’re going out to play games we can’t even really think about it, so we would love to have him in the lineup, at his optimum healthy version of himself.

“Then we’ll let the rest take care of it, but who knows? Who knows what’s going to happen?”

 

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Even if Harden remains a Net past the trade deadline, questions will continue to persist since Harden can become a free agent after this season. And what could be a matter of concern is that Harden and his manager, Lorenzo McCloud, have been looking for an agent, according to ESPN.

Harden hired agents in 2020 when he wanted to leave Houston and they helped eventually facilitate the deal that landed him in Kings County in the first place. Whether the hunt for an agent is merely to help work out a deal to stay in Brooklyn, leave and sign elsewhere or facilitate a trade remains anyone’s guess.

The situation has been compounded by the Nets’ struggles of late. They’ve played 11 games without Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined due to an MCL sprain, and that has added a lot of burden to Harden’s workload.

The Nets have held the line that once they get everyone healthy, then the true talent of the team will shine through, and that should take some of the weight off Harden’s shoulders.

And any thought that Durant would want to see Harden moved before Thursday’s deadline doesn’t seem to hold water either. Durant wants Harden to stay, but wants a “committed Harden,” ESPN reported.

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