Steve Nash Thinks Chances Are 'Slim' Nets Make Trade Deadline ShakeupFebruary 8, 2022
On Sunday, Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters that the team had no plans to trade James Harden amid growing buzz that the Philadelphia 76ers were pursuing the veteran point guard ahead of Thursday's trade deadline.
On Tuesday, Nash stuck to his story.
"I think we'll be exactly the same," he told reporters. "I think the chances of trades or deals happening before the deadline are so slim, especially for our group. My mind and attention is on this group and putting this thing together as guys become healthy again and trying to build for the stretch run so that we can continue to improve but also find that cohesion before we hit the playoffs."
There's a lot to unpack when it comes to the Harden situation.
Last week, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that the Sixers were "expected to pursue Harden" before the trade deadline and that there was the "expectation that both the 76ers and Nets will engage in dialogue on a deal around [Ben] Simmons for Harden."
But Shams added that "sources say there have been growing concerns over Harden's playing style—one of dominant ballhandling and his own pace from his MVP and All-NBA days in Houston—that contrasts with the free-flowing, organic approach from his two co-stars" in Brooklyn.
Nash publicly denied that the Nets had any interest in trading Harden. No surprises there. Even if Harden were on the block, Nash wouldn't risk Brooklyn's leverage in trade talks or harming his relationship with the player if discussions broke down by speaking on the record.
For what it's worth, Harden will miss his third straight game on Tuesday with hamstring tightness, despite teammate Patty Mills saying he looked like himself during a walkthrough shootaround.
So Harden, with the Nets submerged in an eight-game losing streak and Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Nic Claxton already unavailable, isn't going to play?
Nash told reporters the team was just being conservative with Harden's recovery:
But it all feels a little fishy.
And more reporting followed on Tuesday. The Athletic's Sam Amick wrote that the Sixers "strongly believe [Harden] won't re-sign with the Nets and remain hopeful that Brooklyn sees the light before the deadline buzzer sounds."
ESPN's Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst also chimed in:
NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA
“Everything is a negotiation, everything’s a leverage play and I think the Sixers would say ‘oh he might leave for nothing, Brooklyn’ … This is all back channel non-direct talks at this point.”<br><br>—<a href="https://twitter.com/ZachLowe?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@zachlowe</a> on a potential Harden-Simmons trade <a href="https://t.co/EWAXuhHinK">pic.twitter.com/EWAXuhHinK</a>
Jas Kang @jaskang21
Windhorst just now on NBA Today: “no matter what you hear from the Nets or the Sixers, the game is on. This negotiation is taking place.” He adds that one hold up is what the Nets get in addition to Simmons. Could be a player like Curry or Thybulle. <a href="https://twitter.com/Liberty_Ballers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Liberty_Ballers</a>
Brooklyn's incentive to keep Harden, even if he's potentially unhappy at the moment, is the possibility of winning a title, smoothing everything over and signing him to a long-term deal. That's the leverage the Nets possess, though the alternative is losing him for nothing come free agency.
Philly's incentive to push for a trade now is that Harden might ultimately decide to make it work in Brooklyn, sign as a free agent in the summer and potentially leave them without a path to another superstar. Maybe Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal decide to stay put, for instance. Now, Philly has lost a year of Joel Embiid's prime, Simmons has sat for an entire year and they may not be any closer to a title.
On the flip side, they could potentially make enough moves to trade Simmons elsewhere for a quality player or two over the summer, trade Tobias Harris into another team's cap space and simply sign Harden outright. That's their leverage in talks.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on Monday that the Nets and Sixers haven't had any direct talks about a Harden trade since Philly's president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, asked Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks about Harden last month and was shot down.
But the smoke is billowing at this point. There are plenty of unknowns, but this much is certain—for the next three days, the primary storyline around the NBA is going to be whether a Harden-for-Simmons swap happens, no matter what Nash might say.