With Harden-Simmons swap, Nets make a move Lakers didn’t
In swapping James Harden for Ben Simmons, the Brooklyn Nets decided they needed to act now as they slide down the standings.
The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t do the same.
A number of deals were made Thursday before the NBA’s trade deadline, topped by the blockbuster between the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. Just 13 months after acquiring Harden, Brooklyn sent him to a division rival.
Kristaps Porzingis was also on the move, going from Dallas to a Washington team that was busy before the trade deadline. Serge Ibaka got a place in defending champion Milwaukee’s frontcourt after a four-team trade.
In Brooklyn, Harden seemed to have soured on the situation with Kevin Durant hurt and Kyrie Irving only playing in road games because he won’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The trade gives the Nets a chance to turn things around.
“I feel like we’ve got versatile players so we’ll have to figure it out and figure out what works for us,” Durant said during an interview on TNT. “But I’m just happy that we got guys that want to be a part of this.”
The Nets have lost 10 straight games, tumbling to eighth place in the tightly contested Eastern Conference.
That’s one spot ahead of where the struggling Lakers are in the West.
Los Angeles seems in desperate need of a move after falling to 26-30 with consecutive losses, getting handled easily by defending champion Milwaukee and falling to rebuilding Portland.
But the Lakers didn’t make any, raising the question how they plan to move forward with a roster that hasn’t worked. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have battled injuries and Russell Westbrook has been so inconsistent that he’s been benched down the stretch of some games.
While it was going to be hard to move the former league MVP for salary reasons, apparently the Lakers didn’t have any other players anybody wanted in deals. So, they will have to hope they can add players in the buyout market.
James said Wednesday after the loss in Portland the deadline felt like a fog hanging over the Lakers and they needed to see what was on the other side.
“We’ll see what happens,” James said. “We’ll see what happens as far as the deadline.”
For the Lakers, it was nothing.
Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said he was expecting the same for his team, having previously said the Nets weren’t planning to deal Harden.
But the team’s situation was getting worse, with Harden missing the last three games with a hamstring injury and playing poorly the last time he was on the floor.
“The decision to trade James was a difficult one, however after recent discussions with him and his representatives we felt that this move would be best for all involved, as it better positions us to achieve our goals this season and in the years ahead,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
In moving the three-time scoring champion, the Nets addressed some of their needs. Simmons is a top defender who can guard multiple positions despite his offensive shortcomings and not having played this season while seeking a trade.
Seth Curry gives Brooklyn outside shooting it has missed with Joe Harris out following ankle surgery. Andre Drummond could start or play a key role off the bench for a team that has mostly played small.
The blockbuster deal adds even more intrigue to the already jumbled playoff race in the East, where Brooklyn was 6 1/2 games out of first after losing to Washington on Thursday night.
Hours before visiting Phoenix for an NBA Finals rematch, the Bucks acquired Ibaka from the Los Angeles Clippers in a four-team deal that included Sacramento and Detroit.
“Serge is one of the best rim protectors of his era and we are grateful to have had him with us for the past two seasons,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said.
The Bucks sent forwards Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye to the Clippers and guard Donte DiVincenzo to Sacramento, which sent former No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III to the Pistons.
The NBA-leading Suns also made moves, acquiring Torrey Craig and cash from the Indiana Pacers for forward/center Jalen Smith and a 2022 second-round draft pick. They also acquired guard Aaron Holiday from the Washington Wizards for cash.
The Wizards were one of the busiest teams. On the day injured Washington star Bradley Beal had wrist surgery, the Wizards broke apart a roster that had gotten off to a promising start this season. Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans were traded to Dallas in the deal for Porzingis.
Washington also dealt Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte for veteran backup point guard Ish Smith, second-year forward Vernon Carey Jr. and a future second-round draft pick.
Also, the Toronto Raptors got veteran forward Thaddeus Young from San Antonio, sending Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to the Spurs.
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