It appears the 76ers have the upper-hand on a possible trade with the Houston Rockets for James Harden.

The Sixers had been publicly adamant about keeping their All-Star tandem of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons intact.

“We are not trading Ben Simmons,” Sixers president Daryl Morey told The Athletic Thursday. “He is an important part of our future.”

But Philadelphia keeps popping up as a prime destination for the disgruntled Rockets star. The 2018 league MVP informed the Rockets before training camp that he was open to being dealt to the Sixers. And word is leaking out that the Sixers had discussions with the Rockets about a possible Harden-Simmons swap.

The Rockets want a young cornerstone player and draft picks if they trade Harden. Of the four teams Harden has said he’d like to be traded to, Simmons is the best young cornerstone player on the four teams (Sixers, Heat, Nets, and Bucks).

Harden has on his own trade wish list.However, the Rockets have asked the Sixers for Simmons and three first-round picks in exchange for Harden, according to reports.

That’s not surprising. Houston initially asked for a lot from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Russell Westbrook. After lowering their demands, they received John Wall and a protected 2023 first-round pick from the Wizards for Westbrook.

Right now, the Sixers and Rockets are not close to making a deal.

Don’t be surprised if the Rockets come back to the Sixers with fewer demands for Harden. The NBA trade deadline is March 25.

How would the Sixers react if the Rockets asked for Simmons and one first-rounder?

Right now, the Sixers say publicly they want to keep Simmons and Embiid intact and claim that’s why they acquired sharpshooters Seth Curry and Danny Green in trades.

“Having a truly gravity elite shooter really changes the dynamic for Ben and Joel,” Morey said on Nov. 19. “Those who watched the Sixers up close and personally, like you [more] than me, know that when Joel and Ben have had that, it’s actually insane how good those lineups and teammates played when everyone was happy.”

The Sixers want to give coach Doc Rivers an opportunity to see how successful they can be with the current roster.

Apparently, there’s no rush for the Sixers to make a move. Meanwhile, it’s in the Rockets’ best interest to secure a trading partner for Harden quickly before the player/team relationship becomes irreconcilable, if it already isn’t.

» READ MORE: The Sixers are back in the Wells Fargo Center. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess. | David Murphy

Embiid, Sixers lend a helping hand during the holidays

Embiid, the Sixers and The GIANT Company combined to support five local families this holiday season.

In addition to being presented gifts, the families will receive groceries for a year from The GIANT Company and financial assistance towards their mortgage or rent payments.

“This year has been hard on so many people,” Embiid said in a statement. “I am grateful to the Sixers and The GIANT Company for joining me in supporting these families that can use our collective support now more than ever.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this year challenging for family, especially many in underserved communities.

Families of the South Philly nonprofit, Unity in the Community, will be surprised with gifts and groceries from the 76ers ENT. The gifts will be Sixers merchandise, along with shoes, winter coats, clothes and other items courtesy of Embiid.

The three-time All-Star will give the families a personalized message after they received their gifts to inform them about the free groceries and housing relief.