The Brooklyn Nets parted ways with James Harden mid-season. He and Kevin Durant grew apart throughout the year, and Kyrie Irving's status as a part-time player frustrated him. Eventually, it was clear that he had to go.
Brooklyn got a massive return for Harden. Besides Andre Drummond and Seth Curry, they also got Ben Simmons. Simmons is still young and will be under team control for years to come, so it looked like a heist.
But then Simmons wasn't even able to set foot on the hardwood. Instead, he suffered multiple setbacks in his recovery and eventually decided to sit out, even when he was seemingly ready to be on the court.
NBA News: No Surgery Can 'Fix' Ben Simmons, Says Nets GM
“I think Ben had a tricky build-up, to be quite frank,” Nets GM Sean Marks told The Athletic. “He got here, and there was a setback, obviously, as he went through his ramp-up and we saw him on the court. We saw him participating in three-on-three and five-on-five games with the ‘stay-ready’ group. We were hoping, just like Ben was, he was going to be out there. It got to be too much, and we had another follow-up MRI, and we could see the herniation had expanded. At that point, there was really nothing but surgery that was going to fix this.”
There Was No Point In Keeping James Harden
But even if Simmons doesn't want or is unable to play, there was no point in holding on to Harden, says Marks. Per the executive, The Beard had already made up his mind, and there was nothing they could do:
“I think when players’ minds are made up, it’s also foolish to try and change their minds. If it’s not a fit, and you’re paying a guy $30-plus million, and it doesn’t work, you have to make a decision,” Marks said.
Simmons needs to do some soul-searching and get to the bottom of his mental health issues. If he's healthy, the Nets will be the undisputed winners of this trade. If not, he'll go down as one of the biggest busts in NBA history.