The Heat let it be known this week that they are not actively pursuing Harden, which is a blow for the Rockets because Miami is one of those fearless teams with the oft-proven gumption to embrace an enigma like Harden in spite of the various red flags. The Sixers and the Nets, though, may not be the only other options: In recent days, it has become known that Toronto, Boston and Denver have also had exploratory talks with Houston.
I still regard Philadelphia as the most likely landing spot for Harden, largely because Ben Simmons most closely fits the description of the sort of building-block player Houston is holding out for in return. I’m also told that the familiarity between Daryl Morey and his Rockets successor, Rafael Stone, will outweigh any lingering ill feelings from Morey’s move to Philadelphia as president of basketball operations less than two weeks after he walked away from his Houston contract. I know Morey has said that Simmons is going nowhere. I also know Morey made similar statements about Chris Paul before he traded Paul to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook.
While Wojnarowski doesn’t get into any specifics about what Philadelphia would want, it seems reasonable to assume that if they’re being asked to part with Simmons and draft picks, the 76ers would seek at least one more player from the Rockets — perhaps someone like P.J. Tucker. It doesn’t sound like Houston would be enthusiastic about that scenario though, per Wojnarowski, who says the Rockets will likely want Simmons “plus a bunch more assets” for just Harden. “You saw (Sixers president of basketball operations) Daryl Morey come out yesterday and say, ‘We’re not trading Ben Simmons,'” Wojnarowski said. “Well, I certainly don’t think they’re trading Ben Simmons just in a deal that looks like it’s straight up with some picks for James Harden. I think they’re going to want a lot more than James Harden. That might not be a deal that’s available to the Sixers.”
Shams Charania: The Philadelphia 76ers have made Ben Simmons available in some packages with the Houston Rockets for James Harden, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. Conversations aren't fluid as of now.
While the Sixers have signaled a willingness to include All-Star guard Ben Simmons in trade packages for Harden, those talks have come nowhere close to a deal, sources said. The Nets are limited by the Rockets' interest in their personnel, and likely would need a third team to emerge in talks, sources said. So far, the Rockets steep asking price of young players and pick hasn't moved any of their discussions into an advanced stage.
Yet even with all that relevant history, this is what matters even more in the moment on this front: Sources say the Sixers want to see what new coach Doc Rivers can do with this new roster and have no urgency to pay anything more than a discount-aisle price for Harden anytime soon. Translation: Two-time All-Star and third-team All-NBA selection Ben Simmons remains off-limits, and these next few weeks will be spent evaluating this revamped group.
But Houston has its heels dug in regarding Harden, refusing at this point to consider an offer unless it includes a young franchise cornerstone and a bundle of first-round picks and/or promising players on rookie deals. Sources say Harden, who had been singularly focused on trying to force his way to the Brooklyn Nets, has indicated to the Rockets that he would be agreeable to a trade to the 76ers or other select contenders.
Adrian Wojnarowski: They have talked with the Sixers. But they've not gotten close to a deal with them. And listen, there are teams around the league who kicked the tires on it. But nobody who has kind of dove into this headfirst.
Salman Ali: James Harden updates from @Adrian Wojnarowski: -Houston isn't interested in the Nets package for Harden -If Brooklyn wants Harden, they'd have to pursue a three-way deal to net Houston a blue chip prospect -Philadelphia remains the natural trading partner for Houston because of Ben Simmons pic.twitter.com/XuQP8WoSiX
Marc Stein: The Rockets insist (for now) they will not trade Harden. The Sixers insist (for now) they will not trade Ben Simmons. But sources say the familiarity between the front offices can ultimately defuse any lingering tension from Daryl Morey's departure from Houston to Philadelphia.
Ryen Russillo: Now when it comes to Harden in the trade part of this, here's what I feel good about saying and that is I think the Simmons deal for Harden is there waiting for Houston. I think Philadelphia would do Simmons for harden yesterday.
Multiple league sources have indicated to PhillyVoice that they believe Fertitta would not agree to deal Harden to Philadelphia specifically, with another suggesting the Sixers would have to pony up what would essentially be an extra "tax" to convince the Rockets to reunite Morey and Harden in another city. Teams are ultimately self-interested and will attempt to make whatever deal best helps their franchise, but you should never underestimate the stubbornness of a billionaire.
At the moment, the Sixers haven't had any serious trade talks involving Harden, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon. And Sixers head coach Doc Rivers reassured that much on Tuesday afternoon following practice. "You're not hearing [trade rumors] from us," Rivers stated. "As long as you don't hear it from us, you should be very comfortable. We like our team, man. I'll tell you that team I just watched out there is pretty special. Those rumors -- none are coming from us."
The early signals emanating from Philadelphia suggest that Morey, the 76ers’ new president of basketball operations, wants to give Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons every last chance to click before trading one of them. Houston, just to name one non-Nets option, could decide to wait to see if the Sixers’ stance changes. As wary as the Rockets must be about doing a deal of that magnitude with Morey, we’ve seen that front offices that know each other well often find it easier to collaborate on the biggest of trades.
Kelly Iko: The Harden-Philadelphia connection had grown stronger in recent weeks, sources say. Houston has maintained intent on having James Harden on the roster for the upcoming season.
Shams Charania: Rockets star James Harden wants to be on a contender elsewhere, and Brooklyn and Philadelphia are believed to be his top desired trade destinations, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. Houston is fully comfortable keeping Harden and Russell Westbrook into the season.
June 26, 2022 | 4:04 pm EDT Update
TeamFacu: Facundo Campazzo, in case doubts persisted: “My first, second and third priority is to continue in the NBA. For now, I don’t have it in my head to return to Europe. It’s obvious that at some point a return to Europe will happen, but not right now. I have it very clear: I want to try again, with whichever NBA franchise, to try again.”
Derrick Rose’s value may go beyond what he can produce on the floor for the Knicks. His presence alone could contribute to landing their priority in free agency. The veteran guard is yet another link between the Knicks and coveted point guard Jalen Brunson, their bond tracing back to Brunson’s formative years in Illinois when Rose was the Bulls’ star point guard and Brunson had dreams of playing in the NBA one day.
“Jalen would go over to the Bulls facility and practice with the Bulls players,” Pat Ambrose, Brunson’s coach at Adlai Stevenson High School who remains close to him, told The Post in a phone interview. “That’s where he became good friends with Derrick Rose. So your story gets deep with the Knicks. Derrick saw that young Jalen was a very, very good player and Derrick was a Chicago kid, and really started to mentor Jalen basketball-wise.”
JD Shaw: The Washington Wizards are adding guard Craig Sword to their summer league roster, agent Josh Goodwin tells @HoopsRumors. Sword signed a 10-day contract with the team this past season. He also played 14 games for Washington’s G League affiliate.
June 26, 2022 | 3:50 pm EDT Update
Yet rumbles have finally begun to circulate about John Wall resurfacing as an active player next season. This week marked the first time in some time that I heard serious murmurs about Wall successfully negotiating a buyout with the Rockets after his season on the sidelines — provided Houston remains unable to find a trade partner on a Wall deal.
It is still unclear, with Wall presumed to be essentially untradeable when he’s due $47.4 million next season, how much of that salary he would have to surrender in buyout talks to convince the Rockets to let him become a free agent. The latest Wall-related scuttle does, however, suggest that a pathway for the sides to get there is at last materializing.
Interest in Wall from the Clippers and Heat, if he can finally make his way onto the open market, has been mentioned for months. I’ve likewise been advised that the Lakers — resistant as they remain to trading Russell Westbrook to Houston for Wall by attaching draft capital as a sweetener for the Rockets — would consider Wall as a candidate for the roster if he is suddenly available via the buyout market.