Halloween 2020 was a disappointment for millions of children because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the season of witches brought a wizard to Philadelphia, a sorcerer who concocted the biggest deal in the city’s history:

A Hall of Famer for a three-time All-Star.

Daryl Morey, salut.

Morey, who Thursday masterminded the blockbuster deal that set the NBA afire just 90 minutes before the trade deadline, has hardly put a foot wrong since he stepped off the private plane that ferried him to Philly. And, like a patient power-hitter, he waited for his pitch and cranked it off the upper deck.

Ben Simmons out. James Harden in. Boom.

You might argue that the 1982 deal that brought Moses Malone for Caldwell Jones and a pick and set up the Sixers’ 1983 title run is bigger, but, no; Simmons and Jones aren’t in the same conversation when it comes to value. And while the Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles have plenty of big-name trades in their histories, none matches this transaction of known quantities.

Harden, a 10-time All-Star and scoring machine, will now run in tandem with Joel Embiid, the NBA’s most dominant player since Shaquille O’Neal.

Simmons, a three-time All-Star, had refused to play in the first 54 games this season after coach Doc Rivers and Embiid refused to defend Simmons and his Game 7 cowardice -- he refused to dunk -- in the Eastern Conference semifinal last year. Simmons first declined to report to training camp, then said he had back problems, and, finally, claimed to suffer from unspecified and unproven mental duress.

Morey never wavered. He hasn’t since his Halloween hiring.


This goes beyond Morey’s magical move Thursday.

Morey landed in Philly in late October 2020. He went to work straightaway.

He drafted Tyrese Maxey on Nov. 18. He traded Josh Richardson for Seth Curry on that same day, and, three weeks later, he dumped Al Horford in Oklahoma City for Danny Green and ended the ill-conceived “Bully Ball” era. In early August, Morey signed backup center Andre Drummond and forward Georges Niang, and re-signed Green.

Maxey, Curry, Green, Drummond, and Niang all were major contributors in the Sixers’ march to relevance behind MVP favorite Embiid during Simmons’ self-imposed, season-long exile. The Sixers stood three games out of first place in the Eastern Conference before Friday’s game against the Thunder -- a stunning performance, considering the absence of their $33 million point guard.

No one had played better than Embiid, and no one has coached better than Rivers, and no one had acted more childish than Simmons.

Not that Morey anticipated Simmons’ cowardice. No one could, really.

Morey did, however, play Simmons and his agency, Klutch Sports, perfectly.

» READ MORE: The James Harden trade takes pressure off Daryl Morey … and places it on Doc Rivers

Don’t blink

Morey swore in October that he wouldn’t trade Simmons for pennies on the dollar, even if it meant Simmons’ sitting out the remaining four years of his contract. Morey doubled down in January, telling WPEN-FM (97.5) that, ”If we really want to take our odds from wherever they’re at right now to something materially higher, it has to come back in an impact player.”

Morey was brave. And Morey was right.

Less than an hour after the Harden trade, the Sixers, moved from 14-1 to 7-1 to win the NBA title.

Morey ignored deals that would have landed the likes of Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton. He ignored cries to send Simmons elsewhere, anywhere, for anything. In the meantime, he fined Simmons nearly $20 million in salary for not following team instructions as Simmons claimed mental duress was sidelining him.

This probably wasn’t as hard as it sounds. After all, Morey, last summer, resisted the temptation to send Simmons to Toronto for 35-year-old guard Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade.

Morey gambled that a much sweeter treat would come his way if he waited. Right again.

» READ MORE: Can the Sixers win an NBA title with James Harden? Doc Rivers says yes, but...

Genius at work

It’s been amazing to watch.

Morey refused to trade Maxey, a 21st overall pick, early last year, after he’d played just 12 games. He also refused to include Maxey in several deals since. Maxey is a rising star enjoying a wave of anti-Ben popularity in Philly. But if it had taken trading Maxey to get Harden, Morey should have done it. It didn’t. Good work.

Morey also declined to move Matisse Thybulle, an elite, 24-year-old perimeter defender whose value increased when Simmons disappeared. Again: good work.

Really, what has Morey done wrong?

Maybe it was trading for backup point guard George Hill last March. Morey admitted that wasn’t his finest hour, but, really, the way Simmons played in the second round against the Hawks, Morey could have traded for Magic Johnson and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Maybe it was including Simmons in trade talk a year ago in pursuit of Harden ... but, please. Yes, Simmons sulked about this perceived slight, but this is a business. If every player included in trade talks boycotted his team, the NBA would fold tomorrow.

Then again, if every player was as soft and traitorous as Simmons, the NBA would, indeed, fold tomorrow.

Does he get too much credit for Curry and Green? OK. Nevertheless, they were acquired on Morey’s watch, even if he only rubber-stamped moves already decided upon by general manager Elton Brand and Doc Rivers. At any rate, he’d be blamed for them if they stunk.

Criticism comes with the job

Plenty of critics, both respected and otherwise, have panned Morey ... for what? Trading a limited, toxic player for a talented, aging one? For letting a limited gunner and an old rebounding machine augment a conference rival?

Morey’s machinations, from Day One, wound up landing the Sixers a superstar in the biggest deal in Philadelphia history.

It’s just that simple.