The long-running saga surrounding Australian star Ben Simmons trying to get out of Philadelphia is finally over after the 76ers traded him to Brooklyn for former MVP James Harden just hours before the NBA deadline.
Simmons, who has not played a minute for the Sixers this season after requesting a trade and then declaring he was not mentally ready to suit up fo the team, will partner another former MVP in Kevin Durant and mercurial point guard Kyrie Irving at the Nets although Irving is still only allowed to play road games as he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
He will also have Boomers veteran Patty Mills as a Nets teammate.
Speaking after Brooklyn slumped to a 10th straight loss on Friday (AEDT), Mills said he would relish being able to guide Simmons into the next phase of his career.
"I've got his back. I've always had his back, and now I have the opportunity to be with him. I've had his back from afar and I wish I was with him earlier in his career" – Patty Mills on Ben Simmons. pic.twitter.com/bWmgPEGGYW
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) February 11, 2022
“I’ve got his back. I’ve always had his back, and now I have the opportunity to be with him. I’ve had his back from afar and I wish I was with him earlier in his career,” he said.
“I’m excited to be able to be with him, in this aspect, and help him in any way necessary. That’s how it’s always kind of been. I’m excited for this and I know he is as well for us to come together. I think it’s going to be great for both of us.
“For me to continue to learn things and for me to share with him as much as I can as a professional and as an athlete.”
The Sixers sent Simmons, centre Andre Drummond, guard Seth Curry, their 2022 first-round pick and a 2027 first-rounder to the Nets with Philadelphia getting an All Star guard to pair with their centre, MVP candidate Joel Embiid.
Harden has reportedly indicated he will opt into his $US47.5 player option next year after moving to the Sixers. However, he is clearly persona non grate with Durant – coincidentally, the All Stars teams were selected after the trade deadline.
Durant and Lakers star LeBron James were selecting their squads from the player pool and the Brooklyn forward repeatedly passed up the chance to draft Harden, who became the last pick of the 23 players, taken by Team LeBron.
James was holding a clipboard over his face to hide his laughter as he asked Durant in the televised broadcast if Harden was healthy enough to play now after sitting out the past three Nets matches, supposedly with “hamstring tightness”.
Kevin Durant picks Gobert over James Harden last and LeBron is laughing pic.twitter.com/dm3jSUJ3cJ
— Alex (@dbs408) February 11, 2022
TNT analyst Charles Barkley chimed in with: “He got traded. He’s healthy now.”
Philly and Brooklyn have each strengthened their chances of winning this year’s title with their roster revamps. It is still unclear when Simmons will return to the court but when he does, he will be the perfect defensive stopper that the Nets have lacked.
Mills will get an increase in responsibility with Harden gone, picking up the slack alongside Curry in the backcourt, particularly at home games when Irving cannot play due to New York City’s COVID-19 regulations.
Another Boomers Olympian, defensive wing Matisse Thybulle, is another big winner out of the trade because he is not in it. There had been plenty of speculation that the Sixers would have to throw him into a potential deal.
The blockbuster deal was the headline act on a frenetic final day of trading before the deadline.
Dallas have caused a massive stir by offloading underperforming big man Kristaps Porzingis to Washington in exchange for guard Spencer Dinwiddie and three-point specialist Davis Bertans.
Dinwiddie’s arrival could mean young Australian guard Josh Green may have his minutes reduced – he’s averaging 4.5 points on 13.8 minutes per game during his second NBA season but has been getting around 20 minutes in the past eight Dallas outings.
Boston dealt guard Dennis Schroder to the Rockets, getting former Celtics centre Daniel Theis back.
Charlotte landed a big man they have lacked by getting Montrezl Harrell from the Wizards while sending Ish Smith back to Washington along with Vernon Carey.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 10, 2022
Indiana have continued their focus on youth by acquiring power forward Jalen Smith from Phoenix in exchange for former NBL import Torrey Craig. After being a key part of the Suns’ rotations last season, Craig – a former Cairns Taipan and Brisbane Bullet – will be a handy bench addition to Phoenix in their push for a first championship.
San Antonio have made rare mid-season moves with Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford coming over from Boston with Derrick White heading to the Celtics.
The Spurs also added veteran guard Goran Dragic and a first-round pick from Toronto while sending Thad Young and Drew Eubanks, who is set to be waived by the Raptors, north of the border with a second-rounder. Dragic is likely to negotiate a buy-out with the Spurs to join a title-contending franchise for the rest of the season.
Australian centre Jock Landale is likely to get more minutes in his rookie season at San Antonio with Young no longer logging time in the frontcourt.
Milwaukee have strengthened their title defence by gaining Serge Ibaka in a four-team trade with the LA Clippers, Sacramento and Detroit, who have taken a flyer on former No.2 pick Marvin Bagley. Bucks guard Donte DiVencenzo is now a King.
Boomers forward Joe Ingles had been dealt to Portland on the penultimate day of trading with the injured star out for the year and a gree agent in the off-season.
The rebuilding Trail Blazers had already sent star guard CJ McCollum to New Orleans for a package centred around swingman Josh Hart.
Today hurts… I knew it was a possibility but didn’t want to believe it, we have been lucky to call this place home for 8 years!
I got a lot more to say, but I’m going to have a beer & relax with some good friends..
Go get a win fellas! I’ll always be watching ❤️
— Joe Ingles (@Joeingles7) February 10, 2022
Weekend must-see matches
Saturday – Timberwolves @ Bulls, 12pm AEDT
Minnesota, despite a hiccup this week against Sacramento, appear to be making a rare trip to the playoffs at 29-26 while the Bulls (34-21) are in a dogfight at the top of the Eastern Conference with Miami, Milwaukee and Cleveland.
Sunday – Cavaliers @ 76ers, 11.30am AEDT
James Harden is set to make his first appearance for Philadelphia after the seismic deadline day trade and how he works alongside Joel Embiid will determine whether the Sixers can contend for a title but they won’t have it all their own way against the upstart Cleveland side, this year’s surprise packets at 34-21.