Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers have been at the heart of James Harden trade rumors. It’s easy to connect the dots: Harden wants out of Houston, there are doubts Simmons and Joel Embiid can fit together well enough to contend, and the new GM in Philly is the guy who brought Harden to Houston and built a team around him.
Heading into their season opener Wednesday night against Washington, Simmons said it is not unsettling to hear all the trade rumors. Via Noah Levick at NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“No, I come in every day, take it a day at a time, and am ready to work,” Simmons said. “I’m with my teammates. Every day I wake up and have a Sixers uniform on, I represent the Sixers. So my mentality never changes. I’m here to win a championship; that goal’s never going to change. I know things are always going to be said in the media and rumors and things like that, but my goal is to come in every day and get better, and help the team I’m on win a championship.”
Joel Embiid also said he hasn’t heard anything.
“I haven’t heard anything, honestly,” Embiid said. “When I go on social media, I just check anything really about video games — FIFA, in particular. So that’s what I focus on. Most of the time I don’t use social media as I used to, so I don’t ever go on there unless I’ve got to do something. I’m just focused on getting better, focused on my family. Just making sure everyone around the team and my family is positive and happy.”
If you think all Embiid checks on social media is FIFA 21 information, I have Salvador Dali prints to sell you. That said, NBA players understand this is a business (far better than fans do or should) and are generally pretty good about tuning out the noise. Simmons and his teammates may well be able to ignore the rumors and not have it impact their game.
With Harden becoming a bigger and bigger distraction in Houston, the pressure is increasing on the Rockets to get a deal done, and right now Simmons would be the best return they might be able to get.
Except the Sixers continue to deny they would trade Simmons, and sources told NBC Sports there is pressure from Philly’s highest levels to at least see how their homegrown stars work together with more shooting around them and a different coach. For Philadelphia, waiting until even the trade deadline to make a deal is reasonable. Houston may not feel that way. If Philadelphia and Daryl Morey can use that leverage to get a better deal (giving up fewer draft picks or keeping other players besides Simmons) will that be enough to get Philly to bite?
The rumors are not going anywhere, so Simmons and company need to be good at shutting them down if they want to get off to a fast start this season.