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Nets conference rivals watch: how the latest Sixers, Knicks updates impact Brooklyn

Nets, Sixers, Knicks

The Brooklyn Nets were one of the many teams linked to never-ending Ben Simmons trade rumors recently. It was Stephen A. Smith last week, who suggested that the Nets would have strongly considered swapping Kyrie Irving for the former first overall pick out of Australia, if not for Kevin Durant putting his foot down. So where do the Philadelphia 76ers stand today? Could the Sixers flip Ben Simmons for a player like Damian Lillard? Might a sneaky title contender make a late play for the former LSU product? Could the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat or New York Knicks improve by adding the 25-year-old All-Star? Might the Sixers just run it back?

The latest on that topic, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“The core leaders on the 76ers — such as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle — and most of the team were set to take a jet to see Simmons before being turned away, sources said. Multiple sources said Simmons didn’t want his teammates, some of whom he considers friends, to make the Philadelphia-to-Los Angeles commute out of courtesy because he won’t change his mind on wanting a trade.”

Charania continues:

“Simmons has mentally checked out as a member of the 76ers, sources said, meaning whether or not he ever appears in Philadelphia this season the organization may never again receive the same dedicated player….

Philadelphia has no trade imminent, although teams are calling, according to sources.”

At the end of the day, this league is a zero-sum game and another team’s misfortune is pretty much a good thing for everyone else. The Sixers were the top seed in the East last year, in large part because the Nets dealt with so many injuries, and represent one of the top rivals in the conference, along with the Bucks, Heat, Hawks, Celtics, and possibly Knicks.

As talented as the Nets are, they don’t have a great answer to stop a healthy Joel Embiid, and there are not many players better equipped than Simmons to defend James Harden. (Not that anyone can slow down “The Beard” but Simmons at least makes life more challenging than your average defender).

What about the Minnesota Timberwolves? No team has been more eager to land Simmons than Minnesota. It wouldn’t be bad at all for the Nets if Simmons wound up out west, playing for a non-contender. One top team gets a little bit weaker and makes the Nets road even more smooth.

The Timberwolves had a shakeup at the top of their org chart. But new Wolves’ Team President Sachin Gupta, who invented the ESPN Trade Machine, doesn’t sound any less hot to trot for Simmons as his predecessor was. The Wolves have been the team with the most reported interest in landing Simmons, and that may have only increased with the leadership change.

Also in the division, it sounds like the Knicks are in “aggressive” pursuit of a blockbuster trade to land a star. As if the Knicks big 15 weren’t already scary enough, Knicks’ Team President Leon Rose is looking for ways to bring in some top stars.

For now, with Simmons not wanting to play for the Sixers and threatening to hold out, with the T-Wolves seemingly all-in to land Ben, and the Knicks still perhaps a year away from landing someone like Zion Williamson or Karl-Anthony Towns, it’s pretty much Brooklyn’s world. No news is good news in the Eastern Conference for Nets’ GM Sean Marks and the gang.

None of the most recent reports make it sound like a top rival is on the verge of threatening the Nets standing as the team to beat. And one top rival may even get weaker with an extended holdout or trade.