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Woj/Shelburne: Sean Marks rebuffed call from Daryl Morey on James Harden, but...

Brooklyn Nets Introduce Draft Picks - Press Conference Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Days after Shams Charania made it seem like the Nets were open to trade talks centered on James Harden for Ben Simmons, Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne report that not only are there no current communications between Sean Marks and Daryl Morey, Marks rebuffed Morey’s call a month ago.

That said, the ESPN reporters are careful to also note that a trade sending Harden to Philly is still possible.

Woj and Shelburne characterized the January 11 call this way...

“What about James?”

“James who?” Marks responded.

The Nets do have two James — Johnson and Harden.

“James Harden.”

“No,” Marks said flatly.

And that, report Woj and Shelburne, has been the only time the two sides have “talked” about the possibility of a trade centered on Harden and Simmons. In an interview on ESPN Monday morning, Woj noted that Morey has yet to get back to Marks.

That exchange four weeks ago represents the single, direct communication between Morey and Marks this season, sources told ESPN. However brief the conversation, messages were delivered in each direction: The Sixers planned a pursuit of Harden, and the Nets had no intention of surrender.

Woj reported two weeks ago that Marks would not entertain any calls for the 10-time All-Star and suggested in a subsequent appearance on ESPN that Kevin Durant does not want the Nets to trade Harden, that KD believes that the “Big Three” can still win if healthy.

On Sunday afternoon, Steve Nash offered the most definitive statement yet on the persistent rumors, saying the the Nets had no plans to trade Harden. Stefan Bondy of the Daily News asked Nash “It sounded like you guys are not trading James Harden.” Nash responded, “Yes, that’s correct.”

However, Woj and Shelburne offered multiple caveats on what the next three and a half days could bring...

Yes, Morey could still pick up the phone and call Marks this week. The Sixers’ ownership group have a strong relationship with Nets owner Joe Tsai, so communication can happen on that level, too.

Moreover, they noted that Harden, who’s publicly said he wants to stay and win in Brooklyn, has issues that must be dealt with, including an extension of his contract this summer.

[T]he lack of clarity centered on Harden’s intentions represent the axis on which the circumstances could shift in the Nets’ murky partnership with him. Harden can become a free agent after this season, and while he has continued to tell his Nets teammates, coaches and the front office that he is committed to winning in Brooklyn long term, his actions on and away from the court suggest some ambivalence.

Harden, who doesn’t normally use an agent, is looking for one to negotiate his situation, just as he did when he departed Houston for Brooklyn a year ago., Woj and Shelburne reported.

Once again, sources told ESPN, Harden and his manager have been searching for an agent to partner and navigate the situation — whether that’s free agency, a trade to leave the Nets after the season, staying on a new deal, or even a trade prior to Thursday’s deadline.

Indeed, Woj and Shelburne also offered a damning view of Harden’s recent play ... and general attitude although being careful to note that the Nets believe his recent injuries to his hamstring and hand are real...

Harden has played dispassionate and disappointing basketball — perhaps injury-related in some instances, perhaps pouty in others.

Harden’s private grousing about Nets coaches, teammates and the organization has made its way throughout the league, but those who’ve worked with him in the past understand that’s how it goes in troubled times with him. Almost anyone who has spent considerable time with Harden in the NBA concedes that he can be quick to blame others — and seldom himself.

One source described the Nets as tiring of Harden’s “bitching.” The 15-year veteran has long had a history of not holding back, which a year ago was seen as a positive, a leadership trait. Apparently not so much any more as the Nets have gone from the No. 1 seed to the No. 7 in two weeks.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks, not relation, says whatever decision gets made, it will be based on Sean Marks trust of Harden to want to remain with Brooklyn.

Kyrie Irving, whose part-time status is reportedly an issue for Harden, spoke about his backcourt mate’s desire to stay in Brooklyn Sunday night, offering this...

“I think James can speak better to that than I can,” Irving said. “We’ve had conversations but I’m just getting back into the swing of things, how all those media plants start going around with rumors and stuff like that, I really do not concern myself with that.

“So the few conversations that we’ve had, he’s been really committed, and we just hold him to his word, but obviously when we’re going out to play games we can’t even really think about it, so we would love to have him in the lineup, at his optimum healthy version of himself, and then we’ll let the rest take care of it, but who knows? Who knows what’s going to happen?”

As for leverage in a possible trade, Woj and Shelburne believe that the Nets have more of it should things accelerate this week...

The Nets and Sixers privately believe they each have significant leverage when it comes to Harden. The Sixers would want to offer a spartan trade package beyond exiled star Ben Simmons because they believe the Nets risk losing him for nothing in the summer. The Nets would want a massive package beyond Simmons, because Philadelphia cannot acquire Harden without unloading significant talent and draft assets to create the salary-cap space for free agency. The Sixers have $133 million on the books for the 2022-23 season, and creating the room to sign him would take the unloading of several players and draft picks.

In his live shot on ESPN, Woj added to that by saying, “It will take a lot more than Ben Simmons to get James Harden out of the Nets if the Nets are even willing to listen.”

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report takes a similar stance, reporting there’s not even a framework for discussions.

[L]eague sources confirmed the Nets have no plans to discuss Harden trade scenarios ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET buzzer. The team believes in its impressive title chances when its roster is at full strength.

Brooklyn officials maintain that Harden has not voiced any desire to play elsewhere despite word of the All-Star guard’s openness to test free agency having circled around the league.

So, with a little more than 75 hours before the deadline, we wait.