Last week, Daryl Morey went on a victory lap of a press tour following the Feb. 10 trade that brought James Harden to Philadelphia. He spoke with both local (and here) and national outlets. The more I heard Morey speak, and the more I thought about his quotes, the more I feel that the Nets-Sixers rivalry is going to play a factor in the Eastern Conference over the next couple of seasons. There are several compelling storylines.
While the days of teams hating each other to the point of duking it out are thankfully over (Yes, Dr. J, I see you choking Larry Bird. No, I don’t believe NBA players need to choke each other out to show they care), there are enough fun storylines to keep things interesting, at least for this season.
1. Joel vs. Ben
While the two got along well enough for the bulk of their tenure, it seems that their relationship completely soured after last year’s Hawks series. In an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic on Feb. 7, Embiid addressed the Ben situation and stated that his soon-to-be former teammate was being unreasonable with how he’s handled comments in the aftermath of the series. Ben’s tenure with the Sixers was as eventful as it was maddening. See Shamus’ story here detailing Ben’s timeline with the Sixers.
In Ben’s post-trade presser, he acknowledged speaking with several people in the Sixers org, but not with Morey and Joel. While Joel doesn’t troll his opponents as much as he did in years past, he couldn’t help himself in getting in a shot at Simmons on the way out. It seems they’ll be standing in each other’s way as they contend for a championship for the foreseeable future. I’m excited to see them clash during their next game on March 10, but acknowledge things could get really ugly; the fans are pretty upset with Simmons. Let’s remember that the NBA world will be watching the Sixers (and their fans) that day, and hope that the game — and not an incident — remains the biggest story of the day.
2. Harden vs Durant
Harden and Durant are longtime friends, and this relationship was one of the reasons the Nets assumed their Big Three would work; yet, the group has been broken up.
Here’s Durant desperately avoiding taking James Harden with the second-to-last pick in the All-Star draft, insisting that his team needed Rudy Gobert. Durant looks like a dear in headlights, while LeBron James and the NBA on TNT cast laughs. This was great.
Maybe Harden and Durant have/will work things out, and everything is good between them. But in the days after the trade, Durant seemed uncomfortable addressing the Harden situation. For his part, Durant maintains there’s no ill will, but also that he was taken by surprise by Harden’s request. This may be a fun one to watch.
3. Ben vs Harden
There’s been no reported ill will between the two players, but it’s safe to assume that Simmons didn’t appreciate how the Sixers handled trade rumors in the run-up to last year’s trade deadline. Simmons may be incentivized to play extra hard against the Sixers, and try to shut Harden down, showing his old team he’s better off without the Sixers. We don’t know when Ben will take the floor for Brooklyn, so maybe this rivalry exists only in my head.
4. Doc vs. Seth :(
As you may already know, Seth Curry is married to Doc’s daughter, Callie. I know it’s a business, and Doc doesn’t have final authority on personnel, but it is kinda rough that Doc must have OK’d the trade to send his son-in-law packing. This one’s mostly tongue-in-cheek — thank you to Seth, for his work with the Sixers. He may score 25 points a game against the Sixers for the rest of his career; I wouldn’t be surprised.
4. Daryl vs. The Nets
The only slightly eyebrow-raising quote I saw from Morey regarding the trade and why the Nets asked for the players they did is this one, where he explained why the Nets insisted on getting Drummond. Should the Sixers lose a playoff series with the Nets, this quote will absolutely haunt Morey.
“Drummond was somebody that had to be involved in the trade. We didn’t want to include him. But I think they (the Nets) are scared about going up against Joel Embiid.” - @dmorey— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) February 15, 2022
In 2018, Morey famously said his Rockets team was built to beat Golden State. The Warriors were highly motivated by the comments, and edged out the Rockets in a seven-game series. Draymond Green himself confirmed that the Warriors were just a bit more motivated after Morey’s comments. Morey likes to give the media good quotes, so I’m not here to ask him to stop that; just know he enjoys a flair for the dramatic. It seems he’s a little more careful with his quotes nowadays. Here’s Draymond on JJ Redick’s podcast in early February:
...Or maybe not. Daryl is already out there on Twitter, mildly “threatening” the Sixers’ first opponent of the James Harden era, the Minnesota Timberwolves. This level of “rivalry” is fun, and may add a little more juice to a game that already had plenty.
I doubt this quote is going to unleash the angriest, most incentivized version of the Wolves, but I’ve been wrong before.
March 10 is just three weeks away. We’re dying to see how that game plays out. The next few seasons of Sixers-Nets should highly dramatic, and it’s going to be fun.