NBA rumors: James Harden away from Rockets until trade is done

More on James Harden to 76ers?

The Rockets have pursued a 76ers package centered on All-NBA star Ben Simmons, sources said. Boston and Toronto have also expressed interest at various points. Simmons, a two-time All-Star, has continued to grow his game on the defensive end of the floor. As far as star talent, the Rockets would be able to acquire a player in Simmons whose talent level may not be available elsewhere.
As I reported on Dec. 17, the Sixers went into the regular season committed to seeing what they had here with Simmons, Joel Embiid and all these new shooters that now surround them. From there, sources say, the results, chemistry, perceived ceiling and the like would all be factored in when it came to what might come next on the Harden front.
Stone traded Russ shortly after. Harden is now looking for the next rescue from the flooded Rockets. The list of teams where he might end up grows and shifts daily—it’s this NBA season’s favorite topic. But many insiders believe Philadelphia is most likely. Harden wants to be there, Morey loves Harden so much he was just fined $50,000 for an automated Tweet praising Harden. And the 76ers have Ben Simmons, the kind of young star Stone seeks in return.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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