The Philadelphia 76ers made a statement as Joel Embiid piled on a 40-point triple-double as they won 103-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers without new acquisition James Harden on Saturday.

Embiid scored 40 points with 14 rebounds and 10 assists for the Sixers, who improve to 34-22. It was only Embiid's fourth career triple-double.

The Cameroonian center's points haul included a highlight-reel dunk, a one-handed throw-down over Jarrett Allen late in the first half.

Embiid also made four of five three-pointers, going at 50 per cent from the field, while he added three steals in an outstanding game as they wait on Harden to be cleared medically to debut.

 

Klay hits season-high

Klay Thompson scored a season-high 33 points, marking a major milestone in his recovery from long-term injury, as the Golden State Warriors won 117-115 over the Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson shot five-of-nine from beyond the arc, with Stephen Curry (24 points, five rebounds, eight assists) taking a backseat. LeBron James had 26 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers.

The Chicago Bulls, sitting second in the Eastern Conference, overcame a sluggish start as DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points with six rebounds and five assists, while Nikola Vucevic added 31 points and 15 rebounds in a 106-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Luka Doncic scored 45 points with 15 rebounds and eight rebounds in a losing cause as the Dallas Mavericks went down 99-97 to the Los Angeles Clippers, while the table-topping Phoenix Suns won their fourth straight with a 132-105 win over the Orlando Magic led by Devin Booker's 26 points and Chris Paul's 15 assists.

 

Nets slump to 11th straight loss

Kyrie Irving led a late Brooklyn Nets charge that fell short as they went down 115-111 to the Miami Heat. Irving scored 29 points, including 20 in the final quarter, with five rebounds and five assists as the Nets slumped to their 11th straight defeat. Bam Adebayo had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat who have won five in a row.

Kevin Durant has returned to on-court practice but the Brooklyn Nets are still not offering any timeframes on his return to play.

Durant has been sidelined since January 16 with an MCL strain in his left knee, with reports he will not return until after the All-Star Game on February 20.

The Nets have lost 10 in a row in the absence of Durant, who is averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season.

Durant joined the Nets for their current road trip, marking the first time since sustaining the injury and noted he is edging closer to a return.

"I'm getting better every day," Durant told reporters prior to Saturday's game against the Miami Heat.

"It's obviously a process to get back on the court and I'm going through that every day. I'm feeling much better as each week passes. It's slow but you know I'm looking forward to ramping things up."

He added: "I feel that the next couple weeks that I'll start to do more. That's probably as much as I can give you and I don't know for sure.

"I'm just listening to the training staff, just doing my job and coming in and following the game plan every day. Whatever they give me.

"But from the last few weeks I feel like they'll be able to give me more and more each day goes on so I'll ramp up here soon and we'll see what happens.

"I want to be back as fast as possible but I also know that I don't want to go out there and be 80 percent. I want to be 100 so I can be the best that I can be."

Nets head coach Steve Nash also declined to offer any timelines on 12-time All-Star's likely return.

"He's on the court shooting, working through things, looking really good," Nash said on Saturday. "There's still a period of time he's got to go through to get over the line, but really positive."

The Nets also confirmed new trade acquisitions Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond would not yet debut against the Heat on Saturday.

MVP contender Joel Embiid is glad to put the Ben Simmons trade saga behind him and the Philadelphia 76ers admitting the situation was "pretty annoying".

Simmons landed a blockbuster NBA deadline trade to the Brooklyn Nets, with 2018 MVP James Harden heading in the opposite direction, with Paul Millsap, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round picks also swapping hands.

Three-time All Star Simmons had not played all season after an off-season fallout with the 76ers following a disastrous playoffs campaign, before seeking a trade away which took months to reach a resolution, with Embiid regularly pressed on the situation.

"Yeah, I'm happy that I'm not going to be answering any more questions about that subject," Embiid told reporters.

"It's good that, not just for me, but my teammates, the whole organization. The whole year, it was pretty annoying with the whole situation, but I'm glad that everybody has moved on.

"I wish everybody the best in whatever they want to accomplish, but I'm focused on winning games here and trying to win a championship."

Embiid and Simmons' partnership at the 76ers had been seen as the foundation for an NBA title push but the duo never took the side to the NBA Finals, despite being Eastern Conference top seeds last season (49-23 record).

"It's unfortunate how everything happened, because you look at the history and we didn't get it done as far as winning in the playoffs, but you look at the history being on the court, what we did in the regular season, we were dominant," Embiid said.

"So it's unfortunate that winning was not the biggest factor. It's unfortunate that for him, having his own team and being the star was more of his priorities.

"But I always thought that everything was great, the fit was great. But unfortunately Ben thought that it wasn't. But we all move on."

The Brooklyn Nets went "all in" on James Harden, general manager Sean Marks says, making the decision to trade the former MVP "not easy".

After 80 games in just shy of 13 months, Harden has left the Nets for the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade involving Ben Simmons.

The 76ers had been looking for a superstar in exchange for Simmons and were able to put together a package to tempt the Nets when it became clear Harden was open to moving on.

Harden had last January forced his way out of the Houston Rockets to move to Brooklyn and team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But the Nets' 'Big Three' played just 365 minutes together across 16 games in the regular season and playoffs.

Although the Nets went 13-3 in those games, Harden and Irving were each absent for three games of the seven-game series against eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2020-21 postseason.

The injury issues that dogged the trio last year have continued this season, while Irving has played just 13 games due to a refusal to be vaccinated.

The Nets, on a 10-game losing streak, are now moving in a new direction, but Marks insists their commitment to Harden up until Thursday's trade could not be questioned.

"Make no bones about it: we went all in on getting James Harden and inviting him to the group," Marks said on Friday.

"And these decisions to move on from a player like that, of that calibre, are never easy ones. I just want to be clear that this is not something that you think, 'great, let's just make a split decision and move on from that'.

"I give James a lot of credit for having open dialogue, open discussions with me and with the group, [Nets coach Steve Nash] and [owner] Joe Tsai and everybody over the last 24, 48 hours.

"Again, I said they're not easy, but I think that's something we pride ourselves on is being open and honest. James was honest with us and we were honest with him.

"I think it's a move that enables him to have a fresh start, enables this team to have a fresh start, without trying to push things to make things work.

"If we realise this is not going to work, short term or long term, then it's time to say for, both parties involved, this is better off."

Harden, whose 76ers debut is likely to be next week, will be warmly received in Philly.

Second-year point guard Tyrese Maxey welcomed the 10-time All-Star, who is set to shine alongside MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

"It's going to be great. It's two MVP-calibre players on top of what we have here already," Maxey said, adding: "It's going to be great, and I just can't wait."

Steve Nash could not help but contemplate the "what ifs" after James Harden's brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was ended in a big trade-deadline deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

One of the most prolific shooters in NBA history, Harden was drafted to the Nets in January 2021 to form a tantalising big three alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

However, a combination of factors limited the amount of game time the trio enjoyed on court together, with Durant contending with injuries and Irving unable to play home fixtures this season as he is unvaccinated against COVID-19. Health protocols in New York mean players have to be jabbed to play in the city

Harden averaged just 22.5 points per game this season, his lowest average since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as 8.0 rebounds and 10.2 assists.

Despite head coach Nash consistently saying Harden would not be moved on, he was sent to Philly in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets also included Paul Millsap in the deal.

Speaking after the Nets were defeated 113-112 by the Washington Wizards – their 10th loss in a row – Nash could not help but wonder how things could have played out differently in last season's playoffs when they lost out in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"You're up 2-0 against the NBA champs, and then to not have James in the first games and then Kyrie in the last games, James being on one leg, Jeff Green being out of the lineup, all sorts of things that hampered our opportunity to win," Nash said. 

"To take them to overtime in Game 7, you definitely think there are some what-ifs, but that's life. You can't look back. You've got to look forward."

Nash, who said it was a "pleasure" to coach a "historic" player, added on the trade: "I think in the last hours, as the hours ticked by today, it seemed more apparent. 

"But you're never surprised. When I was asked those questions [about whether he would be traded], there was no conversation between the two teams."

The Nets have slid down the Eastern Conference standings and sit eighth as a result of their barren run.

But with the new additions, and Durant (sprained MCL), LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained ankle), Joe Harris (ankle surgery) and Nic Claxton (left hamstring tightness) all to come back, Nash remains hopeful the Nets can get back on track. 

"Yeah, I think we always set our sights at that," Nash said. "We're excited by the pieces that are coming in. 

"Obviously, we're on a time crunch a little bit and getting everyone healthy, gaining some cohesion and building a team that can flow and play at both ends of the floor, but we're not taking our foot off the gas. 

"We want to try to build and reach for the stars and try to have a sense of urgency with this new addition."

Irving said he made no attempt to try and convince Harden to stay but added he wished his now former teammate well in his future endeavours.

"That's not really my place, in terms of trying to convince somebody of something that he probably can't see right now," Irving said. 

"James probably couldn't see what we were getting into. Obviously with my status being in and out, I saw a few things maybe that could have impacted things.

"But who knows, we got to wait for him - I can't really speak for James.

"I think we're also forgetting, too, where I've asked for a trade, and I understand it, so I'm not here to judge him. I'm not here to talk bad on James. 

"He has a great family, he's a great person. And I don't want to separate that fact from anything. I just really want him to be happy. I want everybody in this league to be happy."

The Phoenix Suns outclassed defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday to win 131-107 and stretch their NBA-best record to 45-10.

In a rematch of last season's Finals, won by the Bucks, Phoenix pulled clear in the second half after a competitive opening two quarters in Arizona.

Deandre Ayton top-scored for the Suns with 27 points, finishing on 12-of-14 shooting from the field, while Chris Paul enjoyed a special game: his 17 points and 19 assists brought about his 500th career double-double, a tally only previously reached by three guards in the league's history.

"I'm grateful that I still get a chance to play," he said. "Not just play, but I feel like I play at a high level every night. It's cool."

It was a 15th win from 16 games for the Suns and reinforced their championship credentials against the team who came from 2-0 down to win last year's Finals series 4-2.

"They're the defending champs. We still hurt," said coach Monty Williams. "But from a confidence standpoint, for sure, it was a big game for us. I can admit it now."

The Golden State Warriors, second to the Suns in the West, fell to a second straight defeat for only the third time this season despite a double-double from Stephen Curry.

Julius Randle's 28 points and 16 rebounds, the latter an equal-high for the season, saw the New York Knicks win for the first time in four games in their West Coast trip, Klay Thompson's missed buzzer-beater meaning it finished 116-114.

The Miami Heat remain top of the Eastern Conference, their dominant second-half display seeing them to a 112-97 defeat of the New Orleans Pelicans. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each scored 29 points for Miami, while Kyle Lowry got his first triple-double of the season.

Doncic hits 50 for first time

The latest star turn in the incredible early career of Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-105 in Texas.

The 22-year-old scored a career-best 51 points, 28 of which came in an astonishing first quarter in which he hit seven of his attempted nine three-pointers.

Marcus Morris Sr. top-scored for the Clippers with 21, while Reggie Jackson posted 18, but there was simply no way back from the damage dealt by Doncic.

"Tonight was just Luka," said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. "That little step-back three, I'll live with that. That's his shot, but if he misses a couple or few of those, then the game is different. But he made them, and that's why he's a great player."

Kuzma triple-double settles clash of busy traders

In a battle of teams at the heart of the trade deadline drama, the Washington Wizards beat the Brooklyn Nets 113-112.

A first career triple-double of 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for Kyle Kuzma proved pivotal for the Wizards, who added Kristaps Porzingis on a busy Thursday in the week they lost Bradley Beal for the rest of the season to a wrist injury.

The Nets, who sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade involving Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, slipped to a 10th loss on the spin despite Kyrie Irving's 31 points.

Elsewhere, Kevin Porter Jr. put up 30 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Houston Rockets 139-120, while the Memphis Grizzlies took their winning streak to four, Ja Morant scoring 23 points in a 132-107 rout of the struggling Detroit Pistons.

 

LeBron James and Kevin Durant confirmed their 2022 All-Star teams in Thursday's draft, with James Harden picked last.

James was voted in by fans as the Western Conference's captain, while Durant was chosen out of the East.

The All-Star draft took place ahead of Thursday's slate of games and came at the end of a thrilling trade deadline day, in which Harden took centre-stage.

Harden has left the Brooklyn Nets to join up with the Philadelphia 76ers, who finally solved their Ben Simmons conundrum by sending him – as well as Seth Curry and Andre Drummond – the other way.

Interestingly, his former Nets team-mate Durant seemingly opted to pick anyone but Harden.

The 32-year-old ended up being given to James by default at the end when Durant chose Rudy Gobert as his final selection.

Despite being captain, Durant will not be taking part in the All-Star game later this month due to a lingering knee injury, meaning he was granted five picks to James' four in the first round of the draft.

James went first, though, and selected the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo – in fact, the Los Angeles Lakers star's starting team will be almost identical to last year's, with DeMar DeRozan instead of Luka Doncic the only difference.

Team LeBron defeated Team Durant 170-150 in 2021 and James will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around.

NBA All-Star Teams

Team LeBron

Starters: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Jokic

Reserves: Luka Doncic, Darius Garland, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell, Fred VanVleet, James Harden

Team Durant

Starters: Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, Andrew Wiggins

Reserves: Devin Booker, Karl Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, DeJounte Murray, Khris Middleton, LaMelo Ball, Rudy Gobert  

The Philadelphia 76ers solved their Ben Simmons conundrum with a blockbuster trade for James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets before the NBA trade deadline passed on Thursday. 

Simmons has refused to play for the Sixers this season after coach Doc Rivers and center Joel Embiid were critical of his performances in the Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks last season. 

Philadelphia had been trying to trade the fifth-year guard/forward ever since, but the former Rookie of the Year's value plummeted after he came up short against the Hawks. 

However, according to multiple reports a deal was finally struck to send Simmons to Brooklyn in exchange for the 2018 NBA MVP Harden. Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick and a protected 2027 first-round pick were also sent to the Nets, with Paul Millsap going in the opposite direction. 

Harden can become a free agent in the offseason, while Simmons is under contract until 2025 after signing a five-year, $177.2million deal in 2019.

While the 76ers seemingly boosted their chances of contending by adding Harden, the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors remained idle. However, there were still plenty of other deals reported on Thursday.

 

Mavericks move on from Porzingis

The Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis era is over in Dallas.

The Mavs sent Porzingis and a second-round pick to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.

Injuries have continued to trouble the 7ft 3in center, who averaged 20 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in two and a half seasons in Dallas.

Kings trade Bagley, Bucks get Ibaka 

The Sacramento Kings made Marvin Bagley III the second overall pick in the 2018 draft but brought an end to his time in California as part of a seven-player, four-team trade. 

Bagley was sent to the Detroit Pistons, with Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles going to Sacramento. The Kings also received Donte DiVincenzo from the Milwaukee Bucks, who swapped Serge Ibaka for Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood. The reigning NBA champions also received two future second-round picks and cash considerations. 

Bagley has started just 17 games for Sacramento this season, averaging 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game.

Celtics bring Theis back, send Schroder to Houston

Daniel Theis is back for a second spell with the Boston Celtics.

Less than a year after he was traded to the Chicago Bulls by the Celtics, Theis was brought back from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando. Freedom is expected to be waived by the Rockets, though.

Boston also sent Bol Bol and PJ Dozier, who are both out for the season, to the Orlando Magic and offloaded Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics' brought in Derrick White.

Elsewhere...

Goran Dragic's time with the Toronto Raptors is up after he was traded to the Spurs for Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks – whom they were set to waive – and a 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick. Dragic is expected to be bought out, with the Chicago Bulls, Mavs, Bucks, Warriors, Nets and Clippers all credited with an interest.

The Charlotte Hornets added Montrezl Harrel from the Wizards. Ish Smith and Vernon Carey Jr went the other way. 

Torrey Craig is back with the Phoenix Suns following a deal that saw Jalen Smith land with the Indiana Pacers. Aaron Holiday was also acquired from the Wizards.

James Harden is leaving the Brooklyn Nets to join the Philadelphia 76ers, according to reports.

The teams have agreed a trade that will see Harden move to Philadelphia, while Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond head the other way, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets will also include Paul Millsap in the deal.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours in January 2021 when the Sixers pursued Harden from the Houston Rockets. Harden instead headed for the Nets, and Simmons saw out the season in Philadelphia, only for speculation to ramp up again after a deeply dissatisfying playoff exit.

Simmons has not played since June when Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers appeared to blame the former first overall pick for a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

The 25-year-old Simmons averaged 14.3 points per game last season from his 58 appearances, plus 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

Harden, 32, has failed to settle in Brooklyn since arriving from Houston last January, averaging just 22.5 points per game this season, his lowest average since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as 8.0 rebounds and 10.2 assists.

Curry has been enjoying the best season of his career in Philadelphia, averaging 15.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, while Drummond has managed just 6.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, the worst return of his career.

James Harden is leaving the Brooklyn Nets to join the Philadelphia 76ers, according to reports.

The teams have agreed a trade that will see Harden move to Philadelphia, while Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond head the other way, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets will also include Paul Millsap in the deal.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours in January 2021 when the Sixers pursued Harden from the Houston Rockets. Harden instead headed for the Nets, and Simmons saw out the season in Philadelphia, only for speculation to ramp up again after a deeply dissatisfying playoff exit.

Simmons has not played since June when Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers appeared to blame the former first overall pick for a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 44 points as the Milwaukee Bucks beat a lacklustre Los Angeles Lakers 131-116 to close in on Eastern Conference leaders the Miami Heat.

The defending NBA champions were 24 points ahead in the first half at the Crypto.com Arena and extended that lead to 30 points midway through the third quarter.

A strong rally from the Lakers, who had LeBron James and Anthony Davis in their line-up, made things interesting but the Bucks stood firm to win for a fourth straight game.

Antetokounmpo's game-high tally came from 17-for-20 shooting, while adding 14 rebounds and eight assists to inflict a fifth defeat in seven on LA, who fall back to three games below .500.

With his latest standout display, Antetokounmpo joins Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as only the third person with 40+ points, 10+ rebounds and five-or-more assists on 85-per-cent-plus shooting in a game.


Suns continue to shine

The NBA-leading Phoenix Suns rallied from 14 points down to overcome the Philadelphia 76ers 114-109 and record their 14th win in 15 games.

Devin Booker scored 35 points and Chris Paul added 16 points and 12 assists as the Suns improved to 44-10 for the season.

Joel Embiid led the way for the Sixers with 34 points and 12 rebounds – his fifth straight 25-point, 10-rebound game, which is the longest streak in the competition over the past two seasons.

Nets claim unwanted record

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart helped themselves to 22 points each as the Boston Celtics made light work of the Brooklyn Nets in a 126-91 victory.

The Nets become the only side in the last 30 years to have every starter score six points or fewer with none of them getting to the line.

Elsewhere in Tuesday's action, the Los Angeles Clippers had forward Marcus Morris Sr. ejected in their 135-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers for a flagrant foul 2 on Ja Morant.

Morant was able to continue and ended the game with 30 points on 12 of 19 shooting from the field, making it the ninth time in 10 games the All-Star guard has reached 30 points.

The Ben Simmons saga has stretched on for more than a year but might finally be reaching its conclusion.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours last January when the Philadelphia 76ers pursued James Harden from the Houston Rockets.

Harden instead headed for the Brooklyn Nets, and Simmons saw out the season in Philly, only for speculation to ramp up again after a deeply dissatisfying playoff exit.

Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers appeared to blame the former first overall pick for a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in which his reluctance to take shots in big moments came to the fore. That was in June. Simmons has not played since.

Both the player and the team have pushed for a move this season without success, but Thursday's looming trade should focus minds. The 76ers, led by MVP frontrunner Embiid, remain in title contention despite having a three-time All-Star on the sideline, yet a deal this week could significantly improve their chances.

Stats Perform looks at four potential landing spots for Simmons that might also suit his current employers...

Brooklyn Nets

Contrasting reports this week have considered the possibility of a belated Simmons-Harden trade, with the Australian sent to Brooklyn rather than Houston. The Nets move has not quite worked for Harden, who has struggled for form and fitness on a team too often missing one or more of their 'Big Three'.

The Sixers' former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey would appear to remain interested in reuniting with Harden in Philly, although whether the Nets are quite so keen on Simmons remains up for debate. Publicly, they say otherwise.

The possibility of Seth Curry also moving to Brooklyn has been raised in some reports, presumably to replace the shooting Harden offers but Simmons does not. Curry is a regular for the Sixers, but Harden would represent a clear upgrade – although he has a player option at the end of this season – while Simmons' elite defensive play would not be missed given he is not playing at all right now.

Washington Wizards

Harden appeals given Morey's desire to get an elite player back in return for Simmons. For the same reason, Bradley Beal – beaten to the scoring title by Stephen Curry last year – is an attractive option.

Beal has been less impressive this year, particularly of late, and is now out with a sprained wrist. However, a move to a contender may well motivate a player who has spent his entire career to date with the Wizards, featuring in a grand total of 11 playoff games in the past five years.

The Wizards, like the Nets, might want a second player or at least a second asset to join Simmons in the trade – moving on from Beal would surely mean a complete rebuild – so the 76ers' response as time starts to run out will be intriguing. Again, Beal has a player option for next year.

Portland Trail Blazers

For a long time, it seemed Damian Lillard was the superstar the 76ers really wanted if they were to deal Simmons. At various stages, that possibility has appeared more or less likely.

When the speculation was at its most intense back at the start of the season, Simmons was unwanted in Philly while Lillard was one of the best players in the NBA. Now, Portland are struggling horribly, Lillard has not played since December and Simmons might seem quite an attractive option for the Blazers, who look to be using the final days before the deadline to drastically alter their roster.

It would still seem unlikely Lillard would depart, rather than remaining as the centrepiece of the team for next season and beyond, and the Blazers do not quite have another asset capable of turning the 76ers into title favourites. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic may both leave, but Morey would surely want more for Simmons.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings would have to perform a significant U-turn for Simmons to end up in Sacramento, having decided late last month they were not interested in paying the sort of price Morey was looking for. The 76ers presumably would have wanted multiple players back, with the Kings lacking a Harden, Beal or Lillard.

Of course, Simmons has not played since those talks broke down, so there is little reason to believe the Kings would suddenly consider him worth the asking price, but as one of the NBA's most forgettable teams – out of the playoffs since 2006 – they surely have to take a risk at some stage.

Whether that risk is giving up multiple useful players for an out-of-favour superstar who does not score is another matter, yet the Kings really need to be active before Thursday, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility they could re-enter the Simmons conversation.

The Brooklyn Nets will not trade James Harden says head coach Steve Nash.

The 2018 MVP has been the subject of trade speculation as Thursday's deadline approaches but the Nets head coach quashed the talk.

Harden, who joined the Nets from the Houston Rockets in January last year, had turned down a three-year extension in the off-season fueling the rumours.

"Yes, that's correct," Nash told reporters before Sunday's 124-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets, when asked if the Nets do not plan to trade Harden.

He added: "I've talked to James; he wants to be here. He wants to be here long term as well, so I don't think anything's changed other than noise from the outside.

"James wants to be here, we're building with James and we think we have the best chance to win with James.

"I don't think anything's changed on the inside, in our locker room, in our communication, it's just all the noise from the [outside]."

Harden's Nets teammate Kyrie Irving, who scored 27 points with 11 assists against the Nuggets, reiterated Nash's sentiment that the 32-year-old guard was committed to Brooklyn.

"The few conversations that we've had, he's been really committed, and we just hold him to his word, but obviously when we're going out to play games we can't even really think about it," Irving said.

"We would love to have him in the lineup, at his optimum healthy version of himself, and then we'll let the rest take care of it, but who knows? Who knows what's going to happen?"

Harden was absent for the Nuggets defeat with hamstring tightness, which has forced him out of the Nets' past two games, not helping end their eight-game losing skid.

"It's day-to-day," Nash said. "It's a matter of does that strength get back to where we feel confident and he feels confident that we're not risking anything. That's what we're dealing with right now."

The Brooklyn Nets' losing skid extended to eight games as reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded a league-high 14th triple-double in the Denver Nuggets' 124-104 win on Sunday.

Jokic finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, including scoring 23 points in the second and third quarters when the Nuggets reversed a deficit into a 21-point lead.

Brooklyn were without James Harden for the second straight game due to hamstring tightness, with Kyrie Irving scoring 27 points with 11 assists.

The Nets, who are also playing without the injured Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, have surpassed their longest losing streak since losing seven in a row in late 2019 and early 2020.

Brooklyn are 29-24 and have dropped down to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

 

Double-doubles for Bucks trio

The Milwaukee Bucks won their third straight to improve to third in the east with a 34-21 record after a 137-113 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Jrue Holiday added 27 points and 13 assists. Bobby Portis also had a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Joel Embiid and DeMar Rozan put on scoring masterclasses but the Philadelphia 76ers got up after a fast start 119-108 over the Chicago Bulls. Embiid finished with 40 points with 10 rebounds, while DeRozan had a season-high 45 points along with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Luka Doncic had a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists despite foul trouble as the Dallas Mavericks won 103-94 over the Atlanta Hawks.

 

No shooting magic for Orlando

The struggling Orlando Magic managed five-of-25 from three-point range and 35.8 per cent shooting from the floor in their 116-83 loss to the Boston Celtics. The Magic are last in the east with a 12-43 record.

Kyrie Irving says it is time for the struggling Brooklyn Nets to face the reality of their situation in the NBA but urged the team not to panic.

As the returning Donovan Mitchell dominated, Brooklyn went down to a heavy 125-102 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday.

James Harden (hamstring), Kevin Durant (knee), LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and Joe Harris (ankle) were all again absent for a Nets team who have lost seven straight games.

The team were tipped for a championship run this season but have plummeted to sixth in the Eastern Conference ahead of Sunday's trip to Denver to face the Nuggets.

Amid the Nets' worst run of the season, Irving told ESPN: "It's really just where we are, facing reality that we are not winning ballgames right now.

"We have got to kind of get out of that hole with just one win and then start a new streak from that point. 

"[There is] no time to feel like our season is in doomsday or that we need to push the panic button at all points.

"But we have to face reality that a lot of guys, a lot of my teammates, we're still getting to know one another, how we play, what's our spots, offensive and defensive tendencies.

"And then communication - knowing that we can get on guys and guys love to be coached. 

"It's not just from the head coach or the assistants but really just from us as teammates and then trusting that we have the experience to win basketball games."

Irving, who cannot play in home games due to COVID-19 vaccination rules in New York City, insists building a winning culture takes time.

He had a poor game against the Jazz, finishing with 15 points in 31 minutes on court after going just six for 20 from the field.

"Myself alone, I can't do it," Irving said. "It's always going to be about the collective unit and how we feel good about being close as a team and then going out there and playing basketball, which is supposed to be fun. 

"But when you're losing and it's a win-first league and a win-only league - you get judged by wins and statistics and how well you put a streak together and how consistent you are. So the spot we're in is going to look like it's far worse than what it is.

"Being in this league for as long as I have been for 11 years, I've seen ups and downs, experiences.

"We have just got to trust that we have the group regardless of who's in or out of the lineup to be able to put a 48-minute game together.

"I don't feel like I'm close to where I want to be personally.

"I have mountain-high expectations for myself, but right now I feel like with our personnel, if I'm not shooting well or I'm not playing well or we don't have the same production from guys that we're used to getting it from, it's going to be a tough night. 

"Building championship habits takes time and time is not necessarily always on our side. 

"It is about staying resilient and knowing that there's another level to push to when you're tired and you have all the excuses in the world and you just continue on. You don't hold your head or anything like that."

Rookie Cam Thomas was one bright spot for the Nets, posting a career-high 30 points.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.