ESPNs Stephen A. Smith backtracks on report of Nets-76ers trade involving Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons

Stephen A. Smith is a commanding television presence, using his boisterous voice and personality to offer daring sports takes. His comments Wednesday on Nets point guard Kyrie Irving were no different. 

One day after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported 76ers forward Ben Simmons intends to never play another game for the team, Smith said on “First Take” that Irving could have ended up in Philadelphia in a trade for Simmons, though the idea was nixed by Nets forward Kevin Durant. 

“Let me tell you something right now — Philadelphia might have said no, but I assure you, if it were not for Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets would be interested in making that deal,” Smith said. 

“If Ben Simmons was in Brooklyn with KD and James Harden, it’s a wrap. They’re winning the chip,” Smith added. 

Smith has been criticized for his takes in the past, including a recent offering in which he said MLB star Shohei Ohtani’s inability to speak English “hurts the game.” Twitter users were quick to question Smith’s report about Irving and Simmons, arguing that Irving — a talented ballhandler who can score in a multitude of ways — is a better fit for Brooklyn than Simmons, a more capable defender who can’t score at the same rate. 

On Thursday, Smith attempted to clarify that he never said the Nets put together a trade package for Simmons. Still, users weren’t forgiving. 

It’s hard to imagine that Simmons’ fit in Brooklyn would be better than Irving’s. In the 2021 NBA playoffs, Simmons shot 25 of 73 (34 percent) from the free throw line, which was the second-worst percentage from the stripe in playoff history for a player with at least 50 attempts, according to CBS Sports HQ. 

Simmons has also struggled to establish a 3-point shot during his career, something that has held the 76ers back from advancing further in the playoffs. That would also seem to be a detriment to the Nets, who last season finished with the most efficient offense in NBA history, per Stathead.

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