Well, there you have it.
The belief around the league was it was always a matter of if, not when, James Harden would express his desire to play for the 76ers.
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that the perennial All-NBA guard told the Houston Rockets before training camp that he would be open to a trade to the Sixers or possibly other contenders. This comes after he had asked to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have formed a superstar nucleus. Harden reported to the Rockets’ training camp for a COVID-19 test on Tuesday, according to reports.
The 2018 league MVP would be a perfect fit for the Sixers. They need a guy they can depend on to consistently get a bucket. They need someone who can finish isolation plays, taking opponents off the dribble or burying step-back three-pointers. They need someone who can strike fear in defenders while making things easier for Joel Embiid.
There has been talk that Ben Simmons would have to be in any package with the Rockets to get the deal done. Philly says its wants to keep the tandem of Simmons and Embiid together.
“You are not hearing them from us,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday after practice when asked about addressing his players amid the trade rumors. “You know, as long as you don’t hear them from us, you should be very comfortable.
“We like our team, man. I tell you, that team I just watched out there is really special. And so, those rumors, none are coming from us.”
But if they do let Harden, 31, go, the Rockets want a young cornerstone player and draft picks in return. The Nets can’t offer that, but the Sixers can in Simmons.
Who knows if the Rockets will come off their hard stance now they that they’ve acquired point guard John Wall, who like Simmons, 24, is ball-dominant.
“We feel very good where we are at,” the Sixers’ new president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, said in the wee hours of Nov. 19 when asked if the team needed to make an additional move. “Obviously, our job is to always look for opportunities. But we feel very good about where we are right now.”
Morey’s comments came after the Sixers had agreed to add much-needed sharpshooters Danny Green and Seth Curry while trading Al Horford, Josh Richardson, and other assets in separate draft-night deals. The additions of Green and Curry along with rookie draft pick Isaiah Joe give the Sixers the collective shooting upgrade they haven’t had since the 2017-18 season.
Harden is a go-to perimeter guy. Morey knows that more than anyone. Remember, the former Houston Rockets general manager acquired Harden in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 27, 2012. At the time, Harden was the Thunder’s sixth man.
But with Morey and the Rockets, he made eight straight All-Star appearances and seven All-NBA teams and earned three scoring titles.
The question is: What will it take to get him, and how much are the Sixers willing to give up?
“Joel and Ben are going to be here a long time,” Morey said hours after the draft. “We feel like all of the guys we took [in the draft] are very good fits with those guys.”