Philadelphia 76ers team president Daryl Morey isn't giving up his dogged pursuit of James Harden.
Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Monday that the Sixers currently prefer to keep Ben Simmons past the NBA's Feb. 10 trade deadline "rather than take what’s available on the current market."
Morey's hope is that a superstar—most notably, Harden—will become available this summer.
The Sixers' pursuit of Harden dates back to last season, when Morey offered Simmons as part of a package for the then-Houston Rockets star. Houston instead sent Harden to Brooklyn as part of a four-team trade, a decision that arguably set the stage for Simmons' current impasse with the Sixers.
Simmons has yet to play in a game this season and has cited mental health concerns for his continued absence. The Sixers have been heavily fining Simmons amidst the impasse. Simmons, who requested a trade during the offseason, plans to sit out the entire season if he isn't traded by the deadline, per Amick.
Morey has spent the regular season canvassing the league for trades but hasn't found one that fits his desire to pair Joel Embiid with another superstar. Simmons' continued absence has emboldened other teams to stick to their lowball offers, leading to an impasse that increasingly looks like it'll carry into the summer.
"The one thing we’re in agreement on is we would like a win-win trade," Morey said on 97.5 The Fanatic's Mike Missanelli Show (h/t Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire). "A trade that helps the 76ers, it’s most likely going to help Ben in his mind and what his goals are and we’d like to accomplish that by by the February 10 deadline. If we don’t, then I think this foundation that we’ve established, we’ll see if that can help us work through things if there isn’t a trade."
Sixers ownership has reportedly given Morey full permission to continue trade talks into the offseason if needed.
Morey has a longstanding connection to Harden dating back to their days with the Houston Rockets. It's possible Morey is reading the tea leaves of Harden not signing a contract extension with the Nets and hoping there's a workable sign-and-trade agreement to be made during the offseason.
Harden has a player option for 2022-23 and seems likely to opt out in hopes of landing a long-term contract that could pay him north of $50 million per year.