The Philadelphia 76ers believed they had another realistic trade option involving Ben Simmons leading up to the Feb. 10 trade deadline, but it fell apart a few days before the James Harden deal came together. This is according to Sixers president Daryl Morey himself, who, in a Feb. 16 appearance on "The Rights to Ricky Sanchez" podcast, described it as "almost a very good option that we liked." The front office "pretty heavily explored" the other trade, Morey said. "And then, for reasons that would reveal who I'm talking about, I can't really say why it sort of shifted, but it shifted."
As noted previously, when they finished interviewing Morey, co-hosts Michael Levin and Spike Eskin speculated about the mystery trade. Maybe it involved Bradley Beal, and Philadelphia moved on around the time that the Washington Wizards announced he'd have season-ending wrist surgery. Maybe it involved Tyrese Haliburton, and then the Sacramento Kings decided to trade him to the Indiana Pacers. And if you've listened to way too many NBA podcasts since then, you might have heard compelling evidence for both.
On Thursday's episode of "The Bill Simmons podcast," The Ringer founder Bill Simmons told ESPN's Zach Lowe that Joel Embiid wanted Beal all along.
"I've had pretty good intel throughout this whole thing," he said. "This is what I was hearing in the moment: that Embiid really wanted Bradley Beal and was pushing really hard for it and was talking to him all the time and was pushing, pushing, pushing. And part of the reason the trade stuff took so long was that there was this Sixers side that wanted Harden -- obviously (including) Daryl because Harden's his guy -- but Embiid really wanted Beal because he felt like he was a better fit and was pushing, pushing pushing.
"Then Beal gets hurt. But ... Embiid is still pushing: 'No, no, no, Beal, Beal, Beal, still working on him.' And then Beal's like, 'I'm out,' and he gets surgery. And then that's how we end up with the Harden situation."
And on Friday's episode of "The Old Man & the Three" podcast, Haliburton told JJ Redick that he briefly thought he was being traded to the Sixers.
"I went to Topgolf the night before with some friends," Haliburton said. "I had a good night. I woke up that morning and got the call from my agent and I think I didn't answer at first. He texted me, he's like, 'Call me ASAP.' So I'm like, 'Is somebody getting traded?' And then he's like, 'You're getting traded.' And I was like, 'Stop playing.' He's like, 'No, you're going to get traded. I think you're going to get traded to Philly.' And I'm like, 'Really?'"
At this point, Haliburton said, he called Philadelphia forward Georges Niang, a fellow former Iowa State Cyclone.
"Obviously the rumors had been going on about it and they don't stop, but I never took 'em serious," Haliburton said. "But now I'm like calling Georges, like, 'Yo, bro, like, are you hearing anything? Am I coming to play with you?' He's like, 'I haven't heard nothing.'"
Then, he said, Haliburton's agent called to inform him that he was going to Indiana.
"I'm like, 'What?'" Haliburton said. "And then it just happened. So it all happened quick. I heard nothing about it leading up to it."
Haliburton's story is essentially the same as the one Niang told Duncan Robinson on the Feb. 17 episode of "The Long Shot" podcast.
"In a matter of like five minutes, this dude was talking to me about like 'I think I'm being traded to you guys,' then it's Indiana, I don't know if it's true," Niang said. "And then it happens. And now the kid has to go from California, where he probably never wore a winter jacket to the midwest where he's probably asking to be sponsored by Canada Goose 'cause it's so cold. Like, it happened so fast, man. It's crazy."
“Tyrese Haliburton FaceTimes me. He was like… am I getting traded to you guys?” pic.twitter.com/XKp67R5PPh— The Long Shot (@TheLongShotPod) February 18, 2022
So what is the truth?
Based on Morey's consistent public comments, the Sixers were looking for a star player who would improve their championship odds in an immediate and significant way. That description applies more to Beal, a 28-year-old who has made the All-Star team three times and the All-NBA team once, than it does to Haliburton, a 21-year-old who has All-Star potential.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
In a Jan. 20 interview on 97.5 The Fan's "The Mike Missanelli Show," though, Morey said that Embiid was playing so well that, while Philadelphia still needed an impact player, it could accept, say, a top-40 player instead of a top-30 player, especially if it was getting draft picks out of it, too. He even directly said that "for sure there are deals with the Sacramento Kings that I think would work," although those deals would probably require a third team.
Hmm, hmm, hmm. I lean Beal -- remember when The Athletic reported that he was no longer completely rejecting the idea of a trade? -- but this mystery remains unsolved.