By DAN GELSTON and BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Sports Writers
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons got his wish, a trade out of Philadelphia. The 76ers got their second superstar, with James Harden coming over in a blockbuster multiplayer trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
The Sixers sent Simmons, their disgruntled star, guard Seth Curry and center Andre Drummond to the Nets in a deal for Harden. The Sixers also will get Paul Millsap and the Nets get draft picks, according to people with direct knowledge of the decision.
The move was confirmed Thursday by the people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been announced.
The move came just five days after coach Steve Nash said the Nets wouldn’t trade Harden and only 13 months after they acquired the 2018 NBA MVP to play with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
But Harden could have left this summer as a free agent and the Nets decided it wasn’t worth the risk to wait, ending their Big Three experiment after the trio played only 16 games together.
Simmons did not play this season for the Sixers in the wake of a trade demand centered largely around hurt feelings coming off last season’s playoff loss. Simmons averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists over four seasons with Philadelphia, which drafted him out of LSU, where he played only one season.
His defining moment as a Sixer came when he passed up a wide-open dunk against Atlanta in the second round of last year’s playoffs that would have tied the game late in Game 7.
Simmons was hurt by criticism from teammate Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers over his role in Philly’s early postseason exit.
Simmons made a surprise return to the Sixers shortly before the season opened, but was promptly kicked out of practice and suspended for one game. The punishment didn’t matter, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft had no intention of ever playing. He later cited mental health concerns.
Harden was set to miss his fourth straight game Thursday with a hamstring injury while trade rumors intensified.
The Nets acquired the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets in a deal last January, with the idea that Harden, Durant and Irving would be too potent to stop. The Nets loaded up for a title run with three of the highest-paid players in the league but a championship run with them never materialized.
Harden and Irving were both hurt last year in the playoffs and the Nets lost in the second round to eventual champion Milwaukee. With Irving not joining the Nets until December and Durant injured in January, the Nets got only two games out of their Big Three this season.
They are 2-10 since Durant sprained his left knee, an injury that could keep him out until after the All-Star break. With Irving ineligible to play in home games because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 as mandated by New York City, it placed a heavy burden on Harden. Harden can become a free agent after the season, though he could pick up his $47.3 million player option.
The 76ers are getting an MVP-worthy year out of Embiid and team President Daryl Morey — who was in the front office with Houston when Harden played for the Rockets — made the deadline deal to ensure the Sixers have plenty for the championship push.
ESPN first reported the deal.
Curry — Rivers’ son-in-law — gives the Nets outside shooting they have missed with Joe Harris out following ankle surgery. Drummond could start or play a key role off the bench for a team that has mostly played small.