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Report: 76ers thought they had a deal done for James Harden

76ers star Ben Simmons and Nets star James Harden with Rockets

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 3: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers posts up on James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets on January 3, 2020 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The 76ers tried hard to trade for James Harden, reportedly offering Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle before the Rockets sent Harden to the Nets.

How close did Philadelphia come?

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

But the Sixers thought they had a deal for Harden done, according to sources. The team won’t come out and say it, but Morey pushed hard to reunite with the 2018 MVP. Simmons and Thybulle were even informed by their agents on Wednesday of an expected trade.
Another league source said the Rockets never called the Sixers back for a counteroffer before making the four-team blockbuster deal that sent Harden to Brooklyn.

Does this support the theory Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta refused to trade Harden to Philadelphia, where former Houston general manager Daryl Morey now works?


Morey has a reputation for not warning players of possible moves. Telling Simmons and Thybulle to expect a trade would be a strong signal the 76ers really expected a deal to get done.

But maybe Morey is trying to change his reputation. He resolutely declared Philadelphia wouldn’t trade Simmons. This situation might have prompted him to keep his players in the loop of the possibility of a trade.

It’s also common for one team to believe a trade is close when the other team doesn’t share that view.

Houston not getting a counteroffer from the 76ers would be a little eye-opening. But maybe the Nets made a take-or-leave-it offer as a negotiating tactic and the Rockets felt they had to accept immediately. Relatedly, it’s possible Houston – after extended talks with Philadelphia – just knew the 76ers wouldn’t beat Brooklyn’s offer.

So, I wouldn’t assume the Rockets played Philadelphia. Houston just accepted a different, arguably better, offer.