There's more and more buzz surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers' desire to keep Ben Simmons past the trade deadline this season in an attempt to use him to get Brooklyn Nets star James Harden. That buzz will only get louder thanks to the latest report from Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer detailing Harden's desire to explore his options in free agency in the offseason.
Fischer notes that while Harden is invested in competing for a title with the Nets this season, the All-Star guard “has recently informed several confidants—including former teammates and coaches—of his interest in exploring other opportunities outside of Brooklyn this summer.”
Why would Harden want to leave? Fischer outlines multiple reasons:
Harden has been vocal to Nets figures and close contacts alike about his frustrations regarding Kyrie Irving‘s part-time playing status. A recent injury to Kevin Durant has exacerbated the issue, leaving Harden to shoulder the majority of the offensive burden during Brooklyn home games.
Nets coach Steve Nash's fluid rotations have also disappointed Harden, sources told B/R. Nash has favored hot-hand closing lineups, rather than a fixed crunch-time unit.
His new city could also be an issue. According to multiple sources, Harden has not enjoyed living in Brooklyn, compared to his days as a central Houston magnate. Outside of the change in climate, the chasm between state taxes in New York versus Texas is quite obvious as well.
Harden turned down an extension offer from the Nets prior to this season. The former MVP has never been a free agent, and this report sure sounds like a guy who wants a taste of it.
The Simmons situation just adds to the intrigue. We know how much Daryl Morey would love to get his hands on Harden after trying to trade for him last season, only to see him go to Brooklyn. Morey is driving a hard bargain in Simmons trade talks, with some rival teams reportedly thinking he has no intention of making a deal before the deadline as he waits for a true superstar to become available. Furthermore, Harden would reportedly welcome a team-up with Joel Embiid.
The Nets are near the top of the Eastern Conference with a 29-17 record, but it has been a bumpy ride after they lost in the second round last season, especially with the Kyrie Irving vaccination controversy. This superteam hasn't really panned out as hoped so far, and now there's plenty of smoke billowing about Harden going elsewhere.