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Sixers’ Daryl Morey is never going to stop trying to trade for Nets’ James Harden

James Harden, Daryl Morey, Nets, Ben Simmons, Sixers

While so many fans speculate about a Kyrie Irving for Ben Simmons trade, it sounds like the Sixers are more focused on acquiring James Harden. The moment Harden decided not to sign his extension with the Brooklyn Nets back in October, stories like this became inevitable. And they’re not going away.

Sixers team President Daryl Morey sounds like he is still making plans to reunite with his former star. Last week there were a couple of reports linking the Nets’ de facto point guard to division rival Philly, and the rumors should linger until the 2018 MVP signs an extension in Brooklyn next summer.

Morey of course, traded for the eventual three-time scoring champion (2018, 2019, 2020) back in 2012 when he was with the Rockets. Harden was teammates at the time with Kevin Durant, both drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. But years later, after leaving the Rockets for the Sixers, Morey tried to trade Ben Simmons to reunite with The Beard, ultimately losing out to the Nets last winter.

Fast forward. Death, taxes, and Daryl Morey trying to trade for James Harden.

One report last week came from The Athletic’s Sam Amick, who suggested the Sixers have a list of 30 players that would satisfy them in a Ben Simmons trade and Harden is high on their list.

Per Amick:

“As you may have heard by now, Portland’s Damian Lillard is not only on said list but somewhere near the top. Ditto for Brooklyn’s James Harden, the former Rocket with whom Morey tried unsuccessfully to reunite with in January and who, by the way, could come to Philly via sign-and-trade this summer if he decides to shock the basketball world and leave Kevin Durant behind. Also high on the list: Washington’s Bradley Beal. Those kinds of guys.”

And this was not the only reporter to indicate interest from the Sixers in Big Game James. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer said Harden, as well as Pistons ‘forward Jerami Grant, are both very high on the Sixers’ wish list in potential Simmons deals. (For what it’s worth, it sounds like the Jerami Grant rumor has been refuted).

Per Pompey:

“…several members of the front office are keen on the idea of keeping Simmons this season with the idea of pursuing of Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in a sign and trade, according to multiple sources.”

Of course, the Nets probably have zero interest in trading Harden for Simmons, at this point. They love what the perennial MVP candidate brings to the table and both he and the Nets have at least done their part to indicate they’d like to keep the marriage going. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN has even hinted that Simmons may not be vaccinated, so it’s possible Simmons wouldn’t be eligible to play for Brooklyn anymore than Kyrie Irving is eligible. If that’s even true, maybe Simmons would change his mind upon a trade, who really knows.

But Harden may have left the faintest sliver of hope alive for the Sixers despite all the hurdles. Harden said the following to Malika Andrews of ESPN, back in September:

“I think in the course of my career, I’ve never been a free agent before so I’ve always just been loyal and just signing contract extension and just being there being there being there, I just want to take my time with it It’s gonna be very very difficult to leave here but or even to leave Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving….”

The most salary the Nets can offer Harden next summer is somewhere around $270M, a record-breaking number on a five-year deal. No other team can offer him the extra year of guaranteed salary or the accompanying raises. But if Harden said he was willing to take less to leave the Nets in free agency, suddenly that’s when acquiring Simmons via sign-and-trade would purportedly become interesting to Nets GM Sean Marks. The Sixers won’t have cap space so they’d need the Nets’ cooperation.

Brooklyn may feel it’s better to have Simmons for three years than nothing. That’s basically how the Golden State Warriors felt once upon a time when they traded Kevin Durant for D’Angelo Russell. We’re losing KD, we may as well take D-Lo.

The Nets will hope it doesn’t come to that. If they could swap Irving for Simmons right now, that might be a whole different story. Adding Simmons to this Irving-less roster would be a massive boost to coach Steve Nash’s rotation.

But we can be sure that rivals like Morey and others will be keeping a close watch on Brooklyn. If there is disharmony surrounding Irving’s extended absence, if there is any funky body language, tense moments, if things don’t go as planned by playoff time, you can bet the Sixers will be rolling out their red carpet to lure away Harden. We wouldn’t put it past Morey to stage his own Joel Embiid and James Harden version of the infamous Durant-Kyrie All-Star Game tunnel conversation from 2019.