ORIGINAL STORY: Kyrie Irving threatening to retire if traded by the Nets might not be the only hurdle standing in the way of a potential Brooklyn-Philadelphia blockbuster involving 76ers point guard Ben Simmons.
Stephen A. Smith explained Wednesday — after Sixers head coach Doc Rivers expressed a strong desire for Simmons to return to Philadelphia this season — that Nets superstar Kevin Durant also nixed a possible Irving-for-Simmons swap.
“Kyrie could’ve ended up in Philly. (Nets general manager) Sean Marks couldn’t do that because KD wasn’t having it,” Smith said on ESPN’s “First Take.” “KD was like, ‘Kyrie Irving ain’t going no damn place.’ Because let me tell you something right now: Philadelphia might have said, ‘No.’ But I assure you, I assure you, if it were not for Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets would be interested in making that deal.”
Irving and Simmons both are high-profile, top-tier point guards. So, dealing Irving for Simmons wouldn’t necessarily change the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. The Nets already are the favorites to win the NBA championship for the 2021-22 season.
But Simmons, an elite defender and distributor, actually might be a better complement to Durant and James Harden. Plus, Simmons (25) is four years younger than Irving (29) with more term remaining on his contract. A deal makes sense from Brooklyn’s standpoint, Durant’s reported interjection notwithstanding.
“If Ben Simmons was in Brooklyn with KD and James Harden, it’s a wrap. It’s a wrap,” Smith said. “They’re winning the ‘chip. I still think they’re winning the ‘chip, anyway, but they damn sure win the ‘chip even without Kyrie if you’ve got James Harden, KD and Ben Simmons, because you got somebody who’s an elite defender. But they’re going to win with Kyrie, too, because we know Kyrie’s All-World. But Brooklyn would do that if KD would let them. KD ain’t having that.”
Simmons, who reportedly is steadfast in not wanting to play another game for Philadelphia, has four years and $147 million remaining on his contract with the Sixers.
UPDATE: Stephen A. Smith since has taken to Twitter to clarify his comments.
Here’s what Smith tweeted Thursday morning:
Here we go with the lies again. I never said any trade offers were made regarding Kyrie & @BrooklynNets. What I said is, they would do a deal to swap Kyrie for Ben Simmons in a heartbeat, but @KDTrey5
ain’t having it. He loves his brother Kyrie. He won’t have that!