Nets send James Harden to Sixers for Ben Simmons

James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets tackles Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center on February 06, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Tim Nwachukwu | Getty Images

The NBA’s biggest trading domino fell just before the league’s deadline on Thursday.

The Brooklyn Nets will trade guard James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package centered on guard Ben Simmons, The Athletic and ESPN reported. Both outlets reported that the 76ers would also get forward Paul Millsap, while the Nets would get guard Seth Curry, center Andre Drummond and two first-round picks.

The swap will resolve simmering tensions for both teams, who entered the season with championship hopes. Former league MVP Harden has reportedly grown frustrated in Brooklyn as the loaded Nets, beset by an injury to Kevin Durant and the limited availability of Kyrie Irving due to his refusal to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, come together around the middle of the league’s Eastern Conference. .

Simmons, meanwhile, declined to play for the 76ers this season after the former All-NBA player took much of the blame for his team’s collapse in the playoffs last season. The 76ers and center Joel Embiid, one of this season’s top MVP contenders, remained among the top teams in the East without Simmons.

The trade ends a short-lived experiment in Brooklyn, which gave up much of its future last year for Harden to join fellow superstars Durant and Irving. The trio have only played 16 matches together.

The Nets, playing without Harden and Irving for much of the series, lost to eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s playoffs.

Philadelphia has looked to improve its roster around Embiid to maximize its stellar play this season. Harden, 32, will reunite with Philadelphia basketball operations president Daryl Morey.

As a Houston Rockets executive, Morey traded for Harden, who helped make the team one of the league’s top franchises during the 2010s.

Simmons, 25, the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, helped Embiid lead the 76ers to an eternal playoff row. Their success followed “The Process,” years of deliberate defeat in the mid-2010s to rack up top draft picks and other assets.

Simmons, long maligned for his reluctance to shoot, drew backlash from fans for his performance in his team’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in last season’s playoffs. At a critical point in the game, the 6-foot-11 Simmons let a dunk pass when 6-foot-1 Atlanta guard Trae Young was the closest defender.

Atlanta’s upset win over Philadelphia and Simmons’ decision not to shoot contributed to the guard’s stalemate with his team this year.

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