The Nets team that faces Boston on Sunday in the first round of the playoffs is different from the one that eliminated the Celtics last May. It’s thanks to a mega-trade with the 76ers — one that seemed dead in the water until both owners got involved.
In the Feb. 10 trade, the Nets sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and two first-round picks. The deal had been done quickly, from Harden somehow expressing a desire to leave two days early to a call between team owners Joe Tsai and Josh Harris that spurred things on and finally to frantic negotiations in the morning. of the trade deadline. .
Simmons had requested a trade as early as August 2021, the same week the NBA sent a memo to teams stating it would honor all local COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Some NBA fans have suggested trading unvaccinated Kyrie Irving for Simmons. It turned out to be the Nets’ other star guard who had left.
But Harden, who avoids confrontation, has never been as direct with the Nets as Simmons has been with Philadelphia.
Veteran Harden had parted ways with Wasserman’s agents Jason Ranne and Chafie Fields (whom he had hired to facilitate his move out of Houston) and hired his friend Lorenzo McCloud in August. And while Nets general manager Sean Marks expected Harden to sign an extension before opening night, that didn’t happen.
Harden wouldn’t have felt as welcome in Brooklyn as Irving and Kevin Durant did, but he never told the Nets that. As a result, when 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey — Harden’s general manager in Houston — called Marks two or three weeks before the trade deadline to offer him a package that included Paul Reed and Isaiah Joe. , he was told the Nets had no interest. in the displacement of the former MVP.
The three-time scoring champion’s game plummeted and his efforts were questioned as talk around the league grew over his displeasure. Finally, Harden and McCloud called Marks on February 8, a Tuesday, and hinted that he wanted to leave.
Marks called Tsai, who FaceTimed Harden directly. He pressed Harden on whether he wanted to be traded.
“He didn’t say directly that I wanted out, but he was fundamentally unhappy, he was unhappy,” a source familiar with the matter said.
At this point, Tsai was willing to extend Harden long-term and pay him $62 million at age 37. But after that call, the Nets changed direction.
Marks and Morey spoke, but there was no movement the rest of that Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Eventually, Tsai called Harris.
“[They’re] very good friends, friendly with each other,” a source said, calling them “partners in this business called the NBA.”
Harris was told if the 76ers were serious about a Simmons package to ensure Morey would return with an offer that exceeded what they considered “suboptimal.”
On Thursday morning, that’s exactly what happened, with the owners backing down and the two GMs trading backyard plays — Mattise Thybulle was mentioned, but the Nets got Curry instead. But the last track included was Drummond.
Harden made his playoff debut for the 76ers on Saturday, while Drummond and Curry will take the field for the Nets in Boston. Simmons has yet to dress for the Nets as he rehabs a sore back, but that could be on the horizon after the Nets were remade on a wild 48-hour streak two months ago that will chart their future for the coming years.
The NBA and the Nets’ parent company, BSE, have denied that Tsai ever tried to have Morey fired for his tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters.
“[Tsai] never asked or suggested to the league office that Daryl Morey should be fired or that we should apologize,” NBA executive vice president Mike Bass said.
Another source said the Nets did not turn down Morey’s request for a suite at a Rockets game in November 2019. After requesting a suite to accommodate 16 guests for a party, Barclays Center got wind of potential protests – both pro and anti Hong Kong – and offered to book an off-site location for security reasons.
Morey chose not to attend.
New York Post