So it happened. After weeks of speculation, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers agreed to the trade we were waiting for. James Harden is on his way to Philadelphia, where I suspect his balky hamstring will suddenly feel better, and Ben Simmons is finally free of those meanies in Philly. He will join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
It's a massive blockbuster just ahead of the NBA's Trade Deadline that's likely to significantly impact how the rest of the season plays out. And I have no idea why Brooklyn would do it.
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OK, I have a slight idea. Harden wanted out, and after paying the price to get him, you can't let him leave for free if there's a real chance he might. But why would you want Ben Simmons? I understand that Simmons is talented, but we've seen far too many examples of how he's a hindrance to his teams in the playoffs, and the fact he doesn't seem to have the, shall we say, competitive fire needed to win an NBA championship makes him seem an odd fit for Brooklyn.
We all know that Irving causes headaches, but we also know that he's a person who loves playing basketball. That's why Durant and Kyrie can work together. I don't know that Ben Simmons loves playing basketball. I have a feeling that will be more of a hindrance to team chemistry in Brooklyn than Kyrie's vaccination status or James Harden could ever be.
- The Harden/Simmons deal was only one of many NBA trades made today. Get caught up here.
- The 15 greatest endings in Super Bowl history.
- Keep up with the Olympic medal count here.
I wouldn't trade any of the following picks for Ben Simmons.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
🏈Rams vs. Bengals, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. | TV: NBC
The Pick: Matthew Stafford Over 0.5 interceptions (-160): Friday's edition of the newsletter will be Super Bowl-focused. I'll have a play on the spread, total, and individual props to make your Super Bowl Sunday exciting. But I have so many props and picks for the game that I don't want to overload tomorrow's editions, so instead, since there's not a ton on the board I'm in love with tonight, I'll give us a head start.
Matthew Stafford is going to throw an interception. It's funny -- there's been this shift in the narrative around Stafford. There's talk about how winning this game might get him into the Hall of Fame, and while I'm not interested in a debate about that, I do want to point out that Stafford is the same player he's always been. The only thing that's changed is he's on a much better team than any he's ever been on.
In the end, though, he's still the same QB with a fantastic arm capable of making throws few others can make. He's also the same guy that throws a few passes every game that leave you wondering what the hell was running through his mind when he decided, "oh yeah, this is the one."
He takes a lot of unnecessary chances, and while Stafford's 6.8% TD rate this season is a career-high (the previous was 6.5% in 2019), his interception rate of 2.8% is the second-highest of his career outside of his rookie season. It turns out having better players around him has only made Stafford more willing to take chances he shouldn't. That's why he's thrown at least one interception in 12 of 21 games this season and in five of the Rams' last seven.
He's going to take them against Cincinnati too.
Key Trend: Stafford's INT rate of 2.8% is the second-highest of his career outside his rookie season.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: Want more props? Check out all the props SportsLine's top NFL experts are eyeing for the Super Bowl.
💰 The Picks
The Pick: Over 154 (-110) -- Being a Gonzaga fan from late December through February has to be boring. The Bulldogs dominate their conference and are routinely playing games like this one tonight, where they're favored by 32 points. Seriously, the average point spread in Gonzaga games since its loss to Alabama on Dec. 4 has been 23.8 points, with five of the 12 games having a spread of at least 30 points. Tonight makes six in 13.
Of course, I'm not interested in figuring out if Gonzaga can cover a 32-point spread tonight, but I think this total is a little low. One of the things about Gonzaga being so much better than most of the teams in its conference is that it scores a lot of points in those games. The Bulldogs are averaging 99.4 points per game in conference and could easily eclipse the century mark again tonight.
Given how awful Pacific is defensively and the tremendous size advantage the Bulldogs have, they might even get to 110 or more. So we're trying to figure out of Pacific can get to around 55 points. The fact Gonzaga will have emptied the bench in the final minutes makes it more likely they will.
Key Trend: The over is 10-4 in Pacific's last 14 games.
The Pick: Under 144.5 (-110) -- This is an exciting matchup I'm not sure most of the college basketball world is aware of because the Pac-12 doesn't get much attention east of the Rockies. Washington State is only 14-7 on the season, but after getting off to a slow start with some head-scratching losses, the Cougars have won five straight and are battling with UCLA and Oregon for second place in the conference. The key to this turnaround has come on the defensive end.
Entering the night, the Cougars rank first in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency in conference play, allowing nearly three total points fewer per 100 possessions than Arizona in second place. Those two defenses we'll see on display tonight are why I'm a big fan of the under in this spot because this total still has a little too much of Wazzu's early-season struggles baked into it. Wazzu doesn't have the kind of offensive firepower it will need to beat Arizona, so it's going to try and muck things up defensively and limit possessions to stay within range. I don't know if that will work, but it should keep the score low.
Key Trend: The under is 10-1 in Washington State's last 11 home games and 4-1 in Arizona's last five as a favorite.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: I'm avoiding the NBA tonight because the trade deadline is going to lead to a lot of odd lineups, but the SportsLine Projection Model loves one side of the Suns/Bucks games so much I might have to reconsider.
🏀 Tonight's Parlay
Tonight we're going back to basics with a four-leg college basketball money line parlay. It pays +110.