Within 48 hours that sent James Harden to the 76ers, they reshaped Nets

The Nets team, which takes on Boston in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday, looks different than the team that eliminated the Celtics last May. That’s thanks to a mega trade with the 76ers — one that looked dead in the water until both owners jumped in.

In the Feb. 10 trade, the Nets sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry, and two first-round picks. The deal had come about quickly, from Harden somehow expressing a desire to leave two days early, to a phone call between team owners Joe Tsai and Josh Harris moving things forward, and finally to frantic negotiations on the morning of the close.

Simmons had previously requested a trade in August 2021, the same week the NBA sent a memo to teams that it would fulfill all local COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Some NBA fans suggested swapping the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving for Simmons. As it turned out, it was the Nets’ other Star Guard who left.

But Harden, who avoids confrontations, has never been as direct with the Nets as Simmons was with Philadelphia.

The veteran Harden had parted ways with Wasserman’s agents Jason Ranne and Chafie Fields (whom he hired to facilitate his move from Houston) and hired his friend Lorenzo McCloud in August. And while Nets general manager Sean Marks was fully expecting Harden to sign an extension before opening night, that didn’t happen.

Joel Embid and James Harden
NBAE via Getty Images
Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons
for the NY POST

Harden reportedly didn’t feel as welcome in Brooklyn as Irving and Kevin Durant, but he never told the Nets that. When Daryl Morey, president of the 76ers’ basketball operations — Hardens GM in Houston — called Marks two or three weeks before the close and offered him a package with the likes of Paul Reed and Isaiah Joe, he was told the Nets weren’t interested in the Relocation of the former MVP.

The three-time top scorer’s game faltered and his efforts were called into question as his upset became more talked about in the league. Finally, on February 8, a Tuesday, Harden and McCloud called Marks and indicated that he was leaving.

Marks called Tsai, who went straight to FaceTime with Harden. He pressed Harden if he wanted to be traded.

“He didn’t directly say I wanted out, but he was basically upset, he was unhappy,” said a source familiar with the situation.

Up to that point, Tsai had been willing to extend Harden long-term, paying him $62 million at the age of 37. But after that call, the Nets shifted focus.

Marks and Morey chatted, but there was no movement for the rest of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Finally, Tsai Harris called.

“[They’re] Pretty good friends, friendly to each other,” said a source, calling them “partners in this business called the NBA.”

Harris was told if the 76ers are serious about a Simmons package to ensure Morey comes back with an offer that beats what they see as “subpar.”

Joe Tsai
Getty Images

That’s exactly what happened on Thursday morning, with owners stepping down and both GMs haggling over backcourt pieces — Mattise Thybulle was mentioned, but the Nets got Curry instead. But the last piece included was Drummond.

Harden made his playoff debut for the 76ers on Saturday, while Drummond and Curry will take the field for the Nets in Boston. Simmons has yet to adjust for the Nets as he rehabilitates a bad back, but that could be on the horizon after the Nets were remade two months ago in a wild 48-hour stretch that will define their future for years to come.

Both the NBA and the Nets’ parent company BSE denied that Tsai ever tried to fire Morey over his tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters.

“[Tsai] I never asked or suggested to the league office that Daryl Morey should be fired or that we should apologize,” said NBA executive vice president Mike Bass.

Another source said the Nets did not turn down Morey’s request for a suite at a November 2019 Rockets game. After requesting a suite for 16 guests for a party, the Barclays Center got wind of possible protests – both for and against Hong Kong – and offered to book an offsite location for security reasons.

Morey chose not to participate. Within 48 hours that sent James Harden to the 76ers, they reshaped Nets


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