The NBA trade deadline is one of the holiest days on the basketball fans’ calendar, and this year, league fanatics — and fans of celebrity drama at large — were granted an incredible gift to celebrate the holiday when the Brooklyn Nets agreed to trade James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons.
Why is this so much fun? Let’s recap: Ben Simmons, 25, is a six-foot, 11-inch All-Star point guard who is consistently one of the top defenders in the NBA. However, he is terrified to shoot the ball from a distance, hitting just five three-pointers ever in a league that has transitioned rapidly to a game played from beyond the arc. In a playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks last year, he fully melted down, passing on bunny layups in crunch time, going 15-45 from the foul line in the series, and refusing to shoot in the fourth quarter in five out of seven games. Having lost the confidence of the Sixers and become a punching bag for the city’s famously unruly fans, Simmons requested a trade before the season began, then refused to play at all this year, citing mental-health issues. He has racked up close to $20 million in fines for not getting on the court.
James Harden, 32, is an all-time elite scorer who never seems to like the teams he plays for. After demanding a trade from the Houston Rockets, he joined fellow greats and posting icons Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the Nets last season. The trade inaugurated what was supposed to be a golden age at Barclays, but thanks to injuries and Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated — which means he can only play away games, per New York law — the vaunted big-three roster ended up playing just 16 games together.
The Nets currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference after losing nine games in a row. Still in pursuit of his first championship ring, the aging star Harden wanted to be traded — again — but reportedly didn’t want to be seen as a problem guy after demanding an out in two consecutive seasons.
Will either team be happy in this classic “grass is always greener” situation? Probably not, but reports suggest the trip up I-95 may be beneficial for Ben Simmons’s mental health, so that’s something. And both teams remain conference contenders if they can figure out how to make this work.