Harden-Simmons: countdown?

In the NBA anything can happen, nothing is impossible. There are only improbable operations, almost unattainable scenarios, practically immovable contracts. Unlikely but not impossible; almost practically. We know that this is so, that anything can happen if the right circumstances are given. That nothing is set in stone and that everything is liquid and relative. If-given-the-right-circumstances. And the circumstances they are bringing closer a possibility that not long ago was unimaginable madness, a gossip podcast and social network: James Harden and Ben Simmons could cross paths in a Brooklyn Nets-Philadelphia 76ers trade. Alreadybefore the market closes next Thursday, February 10. glups.

The circumstances: hours after Shams Charania (The Athletic) dropped such a neutron bomb on the entire NBA fabric, the Nets played a (another) lousy game in Salt Lake City. They lost 125-102… and thanks. They had already conceded 68 points at the break (68-47) after being down 21 in just 16 minutes (48-27). In the third quarter the differences were embarrassing (85-54, 103-69) for a team that is, in theory, one of the top contenders for the ring. But it is not exactly that: a team. It has no collective support, no system and no job. As soon as Kevin Durant was injured, The king Sunall miseries came to light. It is 2-8 without him, there are seven losses in a row, most with a despicable image. No rhyme or reason: no Durant. Against some Jazz at a delicate moment, they didn’t even compete.

James Harden did not play for, it is assumeda muscle problem. But he wasn’t on the bench with his teammates either.. Kyrie Irving, who only plays away from home because he still doesn’t want to know about getting vaccinated, didn’t do anything special (15 points, 6/20 shooting). The game started 10-0, with the Jazz basically training against an opponent whose plan seemed, eyethat James Johnson played everything: 1/8 after amassing eight of the first eleven shots of his team. Without Durant, without Harden, without Joe Harris (who continues to delay his return), without LaMarcus Aldridge… The Jazz (32-21 now) were rubbing their hands together. Even without Rudy Gobert, but with Donovan Mitchell back after an eight-game absence (2-6 without him for a downcast team). Mitchell enjoyed (27 points and 6/7 three-point shooting in 22 minutes) without opposition. No news of his rival, a team whose only plan is to have Kevin Durant on track. That simple, that sad. Durant is so damn good it can be enough. But the truth is that everything that can be done so that his pharaonic project falls apart, the Nets are doing it. They are already 29-23, sixth in the East and with only half a match ahead of the play-in zone

Countdown to a bomb operation

James Harden, who (I insist) was not even on the bench, did not sign an extension with the Nets and in the summer he will be a free agent if he does not accept his player option (47.3 million). Kyrie also has player option: 36.6 million, and the vaccine issue has also left him without an extension, for now. Two stars in an unstable, contractual situation and personal because from Harden’s environment disgust has been aired with the absence of Kyrie, with his choice not to play and his conduct off the court. Also that Brooklyn has not ended up being an ideal destination personally for The beard, and that the union with Daryl Morey, his executive in the Rockets and now the boss in the Sixers, will always exist as a possibility. That shadow was already lengthening over some Nets that have no other sign of stability than the extension that, a blessing for them, Durant did sign in August: 4 years and 194 million dollars.

The logical thing until now was to think that the Nets would try it with their big three atomic, and that if things did not go well, it would be seen in the summer. In parallel, Morey leaked that he looked favorably on waiting for the season to end and going for Harden as a free agent or via sign and tradeand thus play their cards for other scenarios with Ben Simmons, the starry star. The player who does not play. Unemployed for the entire season, separated from the Sixers and with 19 million accumulated in fines while waiting for a change of scenery that does not arrive in a team that sees how Joel Embiid plays at the MVP level. And that he should do everything possible to put the best he can find around the Cameroonian, a weapon of mass destruction. But not far from Philly, the defeats accumulate and the discomfort is filtered by each crack that is opening in the armor of these Nets that last season saw how the injuries of Kyrie and Harden threw their assault on the ring in the playoffs to the ground and now they see how they are its stars that sabotage the process. Harden arrived in a all in ultra ambitious in January 2021. Just over a year ago. In that time, you have to read it several times to believe it, Durant, Kyrie and Harden have only shared a track 16 times. His balance is 13-3another proof that this may end up being one of the biggest what if of NBA history:what would have happened if everything had gone well in brooklyn?

Charania shoots: the wind changes in both directions. The Sixers are considering going for Harden now, before the close of February 10, and the Nets are studying talking about it for the first time, value the departure of a player who is performing well below his best level (he will turn 33 in the summer). And they filter that, in addition, that style of his that needs so much ball and such a specific pace of play does not fit with the much more “organic and fluid” formula of Durant and Kyrie, who (summer 2019) arrived together and before, a matter that should not be lost sight of, to Brooklyn. They are the hard core.

Ben Simmons earns 33 million this season and has almost 114 insured for the next three. The last playoffs ended up being a mess, signaled in Philadelphia and with the feeling that he didn’t even want to be on the NBA courts, with confidence below zero. But is a three times all star who is almost eight years younger than Harden and that he would cede the scoring prominence to Durant & Irving and he would dedicate himself to defending, putting physical, playing in transition and finding passing lanes. In all that, what is not scoring, is excellent. And he could fit like a glove in the most famous neighborhood in the world. In Philadelphia, an optimal version of Harden would give a teammate pick and roll from elite to Embiid, a couple a priori almost impossible to stop for the rival defenses.

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Everything fits? Not so fast. First, the Nets have to assess the psychological effect of already dismantling a project created to make history, and know if they are really safe that it is not worth seeing what the Durant-Harden-Kyrie trio can do in the playoffs no matter how close to divorce it is now. And the Sixers, at the same time, are considering other options. They talk about Ben Simmons with the Hawks (John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic and draft picks?), they know that the summer will come fast and they leak that Why are they going to make a big offer to the Nets if they are the ones who want to get rid of a player they don’t like and who has lost the tune with the franchise and with the locker room. It’s a poker game, a power dance that, and that’s great news, has been activated: the Nets want to fish, in addition to Simmons, in the Sixers’ luxurious secondary lot. Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey… Morey has already released to the Philadelphia press that Maxey (his emerging 21-year-old point guard) is not touched. Harden is a historic attacking player, a star of the first magnitude. But he seems to be regressing, pronounced this season, and has chemistry problems from his years in Houston (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook…). How much is the Nets hand worth? How eager are Durant and Kyrie to break their current team setup? We will soon clear up doubts, but the certainty right now is that a countdown has been started that seemed impossible just a few days ago. At least so soon. Of course you already know: in the NBA there are only improbable, not impossible. They just have to give the right circumstancesno?

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