Ben Simmons is finally leaving Philadelphia courtesy of a blockbuster trade that has reverberated around the NBA.
Ben Simmons’ break-up with Philadelphia is finally official.
The 76ers are getting rid of the disgruntled Aussie in a blockbuster trade confirmed on Friday morning (AEDT) that will see them acquire Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden.
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The Nets are trading Harden to the Sixers for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round draft picks before the NBA trade deadline, according to ESPN.
Harden declined to sign a contract extension with Brooklyn before this season and is eligible to become a free agent this winter. He’s believed to have issues with anti-vaxxer Kyrie Irving not being able to play home games, because of vaccine mandates in place in New York City.
That, combined with connections he has to people within the Sixers, seemed to pave his road from Brooklyn to Philadelphia.
Brooklyn acquired Harden from the Houston Rockets last year to form a “Big Three” with Irving and Kevin Durant, giving up three first-round picks, four first-round swaps, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs.
But the Nets lost to last year’s eventual champions Milwaukee Bucks in a seven-game second-round playoff series in which both Harden and Irving suffered injuries.
Simmons hasn’t stepped foot on the court this season after refusing to suit up for the Sixers, citing mental health reasons.
The 25-year-old demanded to be traded and was prepared to sit out the entire NBA campaign if a deal couldn’t be done, such was his anger at being, in his eyes, thrown under the bus by his teammates and coach following last year’s ugly playoffs exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.
Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot became the hottest topic in the Sixers’ post-season horror show as he came under heavy fire from all quarters for not showing enough intent on offence. Many pundits pointed to that glaring weakness as the primary reason for Philly’s failure to progress further in the playoffs.
Simmons was fined million of dollars for missing team activities in the pre-season and then the season proper, but not even that punishment was enough to make him wear a Philadelphia jersey again. He wanted out but the organisation wasn’t prepared to let him go unless it could secure a bona-fide superstar in return.
Trade rumours have abounded for months but nothing had materialised because other teams weren’t offering up packages or players attractive enough to convince the Sixers to part with their three-time All-Star.
But their divorce was made official on the eve of the NBA trade deadline expiring and Simmons will become the second Australian on Brooklyn’s roster, joining Patty Mills in New York.
The Nets have been building a super team by recruiting Harden, Irving and Durant with the intent of winning a championship. That plan didn’t materialise last season and while the loss of Harden will hurt, Simmons at his best is still one of the most influential players in the NBA.
Before the trade was announced, ESPN reported Harden was keen to leave Brooklyn but had avoided making a formal approach to the Nets, for fear of the public backlash he would receive for asking to be traded twice in as many years.
The 10-time All-Star was with Houston for nearly a decade before heading to the exit in 2021, and his stint in Brooklyn has been shorter than many would have anticipated — and ends without that highly sought-after championship.
With the New York Post