DENVER — In the clearest terms possible, Steve Nash said the Nets aren’t dealing James Harden.
With reports swirling that the Nets will listen to Philadelphia’s offers for Harden, Nash was asked if he could definitively say they won’t be moving him by Thursday’s 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline.
“Yes,” Nash said unequivocally before Brooklyn’s game Sunday against the Nuggets.
Harden sat out a second straight game with a hamstring injury, but Nash said it had nothing to do with either the trade rumors circling around the All-Star or his purported dissatisfaction with several issues surrounding his stay in Brooklyn, from the taxes to the weather to Kyrie Irving’s on-off part-time status.
“No,” Nash said. “No, I’ve talked to James; he wants to be here, and 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. So 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.”
Of course, it’s easy to see why there would be questions. Harden rejected Brooklyn’s three-year, $161 million extension that had to be signed by opening night, and can become a free agent this offseason.
And while he had a financial reason to do so — he’s able to make the most money if he were to re-sign with Brooklyn this summer, a four-year, $227 million extension — it was always going to raise eyebrows. His decline in play this season has raised more.
A trade centered around 76ers wantaway star Ben Simmons has long been mooted, and Harden has connections in Philadelphia even beyond 76ers president Daryl Morey. He also is friendly with 76ers CEO Tad Brown (formerly the Rockets’ CEO) and co-owner Michael Rubin (CEO of Fanatics), and pals with Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill.
For Nash’s part, he said their talks with Harden haven’t just been since the recent rumors but have been ongoing ever since they put that max offer on the table. The Nets are still taking the public stance that when their Big 3 of Harden, Irving and the currently injured Kevin Durant are healthy, they’re a contender.
“I mean, this has been a constant thing since the summer,” Nash said. “He’s continually reiterated that he wants to be here, and we’ve continually said that we want him here and that that’s our best chance to win. So nothing’s changed from the communication we’ve had, and we just want to be conservative with them so we don’t lose them for big stretches.
“We think when he’s healthy and Kevin’s healthy and Kyrie plays, our team is a totally different team. And we’re excited by it.”
Harden is averaging 22.5 points, 10.2 assists and eight rebounds, but has missed games in Utah and Denver with the left hamstring issue.
“The scan is pretty good, but there’s a tightness and a strength deficit. So, for us, we just don’t want to take any chances. We know last year we lost him for an extended period, and we want to be conservative and make sure he resumes full strength so there isn’t an extended absence,” said Nash, unsure if Harden would be back for Boston on Tuesday or at Washington Thursday — trade deadline day.
“It’s day-to-day, so hopefully. But 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.”
When asked if he felt the need to take Tyrese Maxey (also mentioned in the reports) aside to reassure him, 76ers coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t and was skeptical of the rumors.