James Harden Credit: Bill Moore photo

When the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers made an NBA trade deadline deal that sent Nets guard James Harden to the Sixers for forward Ben Simmons with other pieces involved, one of the first questions basketball fans asked was “when do the two teams face each other?”

Tonight is the answer. The Nets will be in Philadelphia tonight to take on the 76ers in the first meeting between them since the trade. The Nets, who played the Charlotte Hornets on the road on Tuesday, fell to under .500 (32-33) with a tough 126-120 loss in Boston on Sunday versus the Celtics.

While Harden has played at the level of a league MVP—which he won in 2018—alongside this season’s leading most valuable player candidate, 76ers center Joel Embiid, Simmons has yet to suit up for the Nets, working on his conditioning and mental wellness. Harden is ready to take the floor against former teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; Simmons is gradually preparing for his Nets debut at a yet-to-be publicly stated date.

“He’s just doing some light shooting, and just physical therapy,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash before Sunday’s game. Nash revealed that Simmons has had a back issue that he described as a “little flare-up.” The 25-year-old No. 1 overall pick in 2016 hasn’t played in an NBA game since last June when the 76ers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Atlanta Hawks. Simmons felt he was made the scapegoat by his former head coach Doc
Rivers and fans, and last summer demanded a trade.

Harden, 32, who forced a trade from the Houston Rockets to the Nets in January of 2021, wanted out of Brooklyn a year later. On Monday, he played his fifth game with the 76ers, a 121-106 win against the Chicago Bulls to improve the Sixers’ record to 40-24, second best in the East. Embiid led the way with 43 points and 14 rebounds.

The Nets were the No. 9 seed in the conference as of Tuesday. Philly was 5-0 since acquiring Harden going into last night’s (Wednesday) game hosting the Phoenix Suns. He was averaging 24.6 points, 12.4 assists and 7.4 rebounds as a Sixer. He also tied Reggie Miller for third on the NBA’s all-time three-pointers made list with 2,560.

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