NEW YORK (AFP) – Three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden was traded by the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal for Australian Ben Simmons and other players, the Nets said on Thursday.
The deal will deliver the Sixers a backcourt dynamo in Harden as well as Paul Millsap in exchange for Simmons, who has sat out the 2021-22 season, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round NBA Draft choices.
The blockbuster deal was the major move that teams and fans had awaited before the NBA trade deadline.
While saying they were thrilled to welcome Simmons, Curry and Drummond, the Nets said the decision to trade Harden was a difficult one.
“However, after recent discussions with him and his representatives we felt that this move would be best for all involved, as it better positions us to achieve our goals this season and in the years ahead,” the team said in a statement.
Harden, the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player, was traded from Houston to the Nets in January 2021 as part of a four-team deal that was expected to make Brooklyn a major title threat this season with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving alongside.
It hasn’t worked out that way, in part due to injuries that have kept the superstar trio from spending much time on the court together. Harden is being nagged by a sore hamstring while Irving is unvaccinated for COVID-19 and banned from home games under New York City virus safety regulations.
“I’m excited for our team, looking forward to finishing the season out with this new group and these new players,” Durant said about the trade at the NBA All-Star Draft show on TNT.
“It’s playoffs right around the corner so we’ve to go fast-track in getting used to each other, but I think everybody got what they wanted.”
Harden, 32, is averaging 22.5 points, an NBA second-best 10.2 assists and 8.0 rebounds a game this season for the Nets, who at 29-25 rank only eighth in the Eastern Conference, three games behind the 76ers (32-22) and 5.5 adrift of East leader Miami.
Harden gets another chance with a title contender and adds a major shooting guard to a Sixers lineup powered by Cameroonian center Joel Embiid, the NBA’s leading scorer with 29.4 points a game.
The trade also ends a long-running saga with Simmons in Philadelphia, the Aussie guard never seeming to fit well alongside Embiid in the 76ers system.
Simmons, 25, was the NBA 2018 Rookie of the Year and an NBA All-Star for the next three seasons. He skipped training camp and has not reported to the team this season over what he termed as mental issues.
In four NBA seasons, Simmons has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists.
Simmons and the other newcomers could provide the outside threats Durant needs to dominate inside, such as he enjoyed with Curry’s brother Stephen during two NBA championship seasons with Golden State.
PORZINGIS TO WIZARDS
There were reports of other moves in the final hours that deals could be made.
Dallas sent Latvian centre Kristaps Porzingis and a second-round draft pick to the Washington Wizards in a deal that sent Spencer Dinwiddie and Latvian forward Davis Bertans to the Mavericks.
The Wizards also sent centre Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte for Ish Smith and Vernon Carey.
Spanish centre Serge Ibaka went to the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks as part of a four-team swap that also sent Marvin Bagley to Detroit, Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye to the Los Angeles Clippers and Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Jackson to Sacramento.
The Phoenix Suns, who lost last year’s NBA Finals to the Bucks, got forward Torrey Craig from Indiana for Jalen Smith and added guard Aaron Holiday from Washington for cash.