Revenge of the 2020-21 James Harden Trade Rumors, Thy Name Be Ben Simmons
Daryl Morey shopped Ben Simmons in trying to trade for James Harden at the beginning of last season. Now Ben Simmons is following some version of Harden's trade demand playbook.
Good morning. Let’s basketball.
Two Human Beings (The Lonely Ones), Edvard Munch, 1896
Say what you will about Ben Simmons, but if any NBA star in recent years has been morally justified in playing hardball to get traded, it’s him.
Remember: Sixers president Daryl Morey had Simmons on the table in James Harden trade talks last December and January. This has been reported thoroughly and consistently by many believable major reporters. Morey was right to offer Simmons for Harden, obviously. The Rockets liked Brooklyn’s offer better. Or they were dead set against playing ball with Morey. Or some combination of those factors. Anyways, Simmons is a young star — one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, with incredible court vision and athletic ability — and he got shopped at the beginning of a season in which his team was gunning for a title.
Then Simmons fell apart in the playoffs, and both his coach Doc Rivers and his co-star Joel Embiid were … let’s say unkind in the immediate media aftermath. We don’t exactly know what happened behind the scenes, whether Rivers, Embiid and Morey tried to support Simmons, whether Simmons rejected help during the Hawks meltdown itself, or any of that. It’ll all come out in time. But we know what Doc and Joel said in front of cameras, and it wasn’t good.
Clearly, Simmons couldn’t come back to the team after that, not without some sort of public display of regret from Rivers and Embiid, and probably not even then. That hasn’t happened. So Simmons has made it clear he wants out.
Camp holdouts for players under contract are highly controversial, and they are something 90% of players are in no way justified to do. Without knowing what’s happened behind closed doors, Simmons might be part of that 10%. And if history is any guide, he’s going to get his way.
What history? Well, James Harden of course.
Harden indicated to the Rockets that he no longer wanted to be a part of the team heading into camp. Rockets leadership believed if they could get him out of the clubs and into camp, they could change his mind. That a new coach (Stephen Silas) and a new co-star (John Wall) could change his mind. You need no reminder of what Harden actually did when he came back. He loafed his way to a quick trade about three weeks into the season.
Harden is a much bigger star and more important player than Simmons (and I say that as a staunch pro-Simmons voice). But Simmons is still a star, if by no other definition than the Sixers demanding a star trade package in return for him. And stars tend to find ways to get what they want.
Morey and the Sixers thought they could pull a Rockets and wait for the perfect deal after alienating Simmons through the Harden rumors and then the post-playoffs open criticism of Simmons. But they appear to have miscalculated Simmons’ ability or willingness to force the issue. They appear to have forgotten that RICH PAUL is Ben Simmons’ agent. A crucial mistake.
And now this saga that really started back at the beginning of last season with the Harden talks is reaching its crescendo faster than Morey or the Sixers appear to have prepared for. What goes around comes around. The Sixers thought they could snag a disgruntled star by dangling one of their own. They missed. And now the man they dangled has had enough, and the Sixers’ patience in waiting for the right deal is going to turn into something like desperation over the next month.
Let it be a lesson to other teams with stars that are or may soon become disgruntled.
Sparks 72, Fever 74 — Kelsey Mitchell got it done with 25 points, and Teaira McCowan had 15 and 19. Bad, bad loss for the Sparks, who missed a chance to pick up a game and leapfrog the Liberty and Mystics, both of whom faced much tougher opponents.
Hey! The Fever are no longer in sole possession of last place in the WNBA. Now they are tied with the Dream for last place. The Dream have lost 10 straight to get here.
Liberty 66, Lynx 74 — Five straight losses for New York. The playoffs are still quite possible because the Sparks are sputtering and the Mystics nor Wings can get on a roll. But this isn’t looking great. That said, the Lynx are really good. That said Pt. 2, they were missing Sylvia Fowles and Layshia Claredon, and Napheesa Collier wasn’t 100%.
Sky 83, Mercury 103 — Alright, I’m not writing about the Sky any more. After sweeping the Storm over the weekend they get blasted by Phoenix. Did I claim Candace Parker might still be the best player in the world a couple days ago? Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner held her to 2 points on 0/2 shooting. Yeah. Skylar Diggins-Smith continues her rampage (20 points on 8/13 shooting, 10 assists). Kia Nurse had one of her best games with the Merc (21 points on 8/13 shooting). Phoenix made a real case for being the team the top four WNBA teams should worry about. And heck, the Merc are only a game out of the No. 3 seed. Do we have a top five now?
No WNBA games on Wednesday or Friday this week. The regular season ends on September 19.
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