James Harden wants to be traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Harden hasn’t made a formal trade request despite sitting out the last week of games with a hamstring injury in part because he fears public backlash to forcing his way to a new team in consecutive seasons.
Harden wants to be traded to Philly. Philly wants Harden. The Nets desperately want to win a championship this season, and believe they a chance with Harden, a healthy Kevin Durant, and a part-time Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn is risking losing Harden — an unrestricted free agent this summer — for nothing after this season if they keep him. Woj compares the situation to Kawhi Leonard’s time with the Raptors, when he delivered Toronto a championship before leaving for the Clippers.
This is the biggest story of the NBA trade deadline, which goes down Thursday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. ET.
The Nets traded three first round picks, four pick swaps, and gave up both Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert to land Harden from the Houston Rockets just weeks into the start of last season. Harden spent the first few weeks in Brooklyn playing himself into shape, but eventually looked like the MVP candidate of old, putting up All-NBA level production for a Nets team that rarely had all three of its superstars available.
Harden would eventually injure his hamstring in the first minute of the first game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs. He would return later in the series, but clearly wasn’t healthy. The Bucks eliminated in the Nets in seven games and went on to win the championship, but as the offseason started Brooklyn was pegged as the odds-on favorite to win the 2022 championship.
Nothing has gone right for the Nets since those preseason expectations were set. Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated kept him out of the lineup all together for months before the team finally allowed him to play road games. Kevin Durant sprained his knee and could be out up to six weeks. Joe Harris might be out of the year with an ankle injury. Harden’s own play has slipped as well, either because of the lingering effects of his hamstring strain, the league’s new rules changes, or a combination of both.
The Nets currently find themselves as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, a far cry away from where they were supposed to be. As the Nets have dropped down the standings, rumors of Harden’s frustration have grown loud. Now ESPN is reporting the veteran star is doing everything he can to leave Brooklyn ahead of the trade deadline — with the Philadelphia 76ers emerging as a serious suitor.
ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst went on Get Up and confirmed the loud speculation that had been rumbling through the NBA for days: Harden isn’t happy in Brooklyn, and wants to be traded at the deadline. The 32-year-old guard is set to be a free agent after the season, and rival teams believe he’ll be on the move this summer if he isn’t traded now.
The Philadelphia 76ers are after Harden for obvious reasons. The Sixers have their own bizarre storyline going on with All-Star forward Ben Simmons holding out all season after his infamous struggles in last year’s playoffs. A Simmons for Harden deal makes so much sense on paper, and Windhorst confirmed both sides are talking. Windhorst said the 76ers and Nets are in the ‘deal zone’ as the trade deadline approaches Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
Harden is doing everything he can to force his way out, according to Windhorst.
“I can’t tell you how much James Harden wants this,” said Windhorst.
Windhorst suggests the way Harden played at the Sacramento Kings was a signal he wants out. Harden has subsequently not played at all for the Nets.
“He is screaming in every way he possibly can ‘I don’t want to be here, get me out of here.’”
Windhorst adds that there could be more consequences for the Nets if they don’t trade Harden at the deadline.
“That’s what has spurred this into being: James Harden’s basic feeling ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’”
Harden hasn’t played because of a hamstring strain since a Feb. 2 loss to the Kings, where he finished with four points on 2-of-11 shooting in 37 minutes.
Watch a clip of Windhorst discussing the Harden-for-Simmons rumors here.
Philadelphia lead executive Daryl Morey has a long history with Harden dating back to their time together with the Rockets. The Sixers also have arguably the leading candidate for MVP this season in Joel Embiid. If the deal doesn’t get done by the trade deadline, the expectation will be that Harden ends up in Philly this summer.
While the Nets’ season has been a disaster to this point, there’s still hope they can get healthy in time for the playoffs. If Harden and Durant are at full strength, Brooklyn will be super formidable even if Irving can only play in road games.
Adrian Wojnarowski went on ESPN hours after Windhorst’s report and said the Nets and Sixers are not currently talking. “Right now, there’s no negotiation going on between Philadelphia and Brooklyn [...] The idea that they are going back and forth that’s been surmised by some, I don’t believe that to be accurate.”
Talks will reportedly come down to the last minute with both teams weighing their options for this season and beyond, according to Woj.
Harden's hopeful Morey secures trade for him today, but Morey and Sean Marks have yet to become engaged in serious dialogue on a deal. There’s an expectation sides will talk today and possibility of deal remains. Both teams are left measuring the risk-reward of a Harden deal now. https://t.co/WeyG7q8Eee— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 10, 2022
Kevin Durant liked an Instagram post about Harden’s trade request
As you will likely see 1000 other people tweet, Kevin Durant liked an Instagram post regarding the Harden report from Woj this morning pic.twitter.com/CG96qsH7H2— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) February 10, 2022
Do the 76ers have the cap space to sign Harden as a free agent?
No. If the Sixers want to sign Harden this summer as a free agent, they have two routes:
- Agree to a sign-and-trade with the Nets
- Create the cap space by moving Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons elsewhere. The Sixers would likely need to find a team that can accept their players into open cap space, which makes the Oklahoma City Thunder an appealing fit.
Will the Nets really give up Harden midseason? In the final hours before the trade deadline, the entire NBA is waiting to see if this blockbuster deal will actually happen.