Sixers’ Joel Embiid Linked to East Competitor Following James Harden Report

James Harden, Joel Embiid

Getty James Harden and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer dropped a bombshell when he reported that Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden is expected to go back to his previous team, the Houston Rockets, when he enters free agency this summer.

“The belief among NBA executives is that James Harden will rejoin the Houston Rockets this summer.

“Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta “loves” the 76ers point guard. The franchise expects to reunite with him,” Pompey wrote.

Following Pompey’s report, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported that the New York Knicks are interested in acquiring Joel Embiid, and their interest only got stronger after the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs again.

“Been told since midseason that Joel Embiid is the guy to watch for the Knicks, and Philly’s playoff flameout only intensified that belief,” Bondy wrote.

Bondy was then asked if the Sixers truly would trade Embiid to a division rival, to which Bondy said that working out a deal would be tough.

“That I have no idea. It would be very complicated and require many things to happen that are not in Knicks control,” Bondy wrote.

James Harden Was ‘Driving Force’ Behind Doc Rivers’ Firing

After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Sixers had fired Doc Rivers, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported in an article on May 18 that Harden was the one pushing for Rivers to lose his job.

“Several members of Rivers’ staff, sources said, have pointed to All-Star point guard James Harden — whom league personnel are expecting to decline his player option in search of a long-term contract — as a driving force behind Rivers’ departure,” Fischer wrote.

Fischer also named who were the likely candidates to replace Rivers as the Sixers’ head coach.

“At this juncture, Philadelphia’s process to replace former head coach Doc Rivers is not expected to grow beyond the Sixers’ initial list of [Mike] Budenholzer, [Monty] Williams, [Frank] Vogel, Philadelphia assistant Sam Cassell, former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, sources told Yahoo Sports.”

While Harden may have been pushing for Rivers to be fired, it appears that Rivers’ firing won’t deter Harden from returning to the Rockets anyway, so it’s possible the Sixers simply believed Rivers wasn’t the man for the job regardless of how Harden felt.

Bill Simmons Previews Sixers’ Trade Scenarios

After the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs, Bill Simmons proposed two trade scenarios on “The Bill Simmons Podcast” with Ryen Russilo. The first one he brought up was what he called a “Hail Mary” trade in which they would get Damian Lillard.

“My fear for Philly is the Hail Mary trade or move is like Damian Lillard,” Simmons said. “It’s (Tyrese) Maxey and it’s the (Tobias) Harris expiring, and it’s a million picks, and it’s whatever else assets you can throw into that, and then you try to figure out (if) you can sign-and-trade Harden to Houston. Is there some sort of mechanics where you end up with Dame and Embiid, either Harden stays, or you turn him into whatever, and you keep your fingers crossed that this will work because I feel like we could be headed down that road.”

In the other trade scenario, Simmons revealed that the Knicks are waiting for Embiid to ask out because of their connections to him.

“The Knicks are just waiting for Embiid to say it’s time for me to go,” Simmons said. “They have their relationships. They have Leon (Rose) and Wes, who were his guys. They’ve been waiting for this moment, right now. And it’s here.”

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