There I was, standing in the student section on the 40 yard line of the Notre Dame-OU game, when I received a text message telling me the news. James Harden traded to Houston.
Naturally, I began to ignore the great game and missed the Man’ti Teo game clinching interception so that I could check Twitter to find out if my favorite player had been traded.
You know the rest the story. It was true. This trade was OKC’s ‘welcome to the NBA moment.’ I felt the NBA commercials should say “Where Business Happens.”
A couple quick thoughts on the actual trade…
- Houston is getting a top 20 player in the league. Unfortunately for Houston, they are getting a great player in a position (SG) that wasn’t terrible on their team last year. They still lack veteran leadership and a scoring post threat. They should be able to compete for the 8th seed in the Western Conference should Dallas and Minnesota stumble as expected with Dirk and Love out for a few weeks.
- This trade marks the first time in NBA history where a team that was on the cusp of a championship blew itself up and got arguably worse. Never has a key member been traded like this.
- OKC FANS: DO NOT BLAME HARDEN OR CALL HIM GREEDY. Harden’s market value blew off the roof during the San Antonio series and in the Olympics. When he is already one of the top 5 shooting guards in the league (Only Kobe, Wade clearly ahead), that pumps up his market value even more. Simple supply and demand. There is a high demand for a 23 year old shooting guard who got snubbed from the All Star team and was on the 2012 Olympic team.
- Imagine how Harden felt these past 3 years. First, he is drafted high with the third pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Look at the other guys from his draft, Tyreke Evans was a prominent player who won Rookie of the Year. Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry are the “Franchise Players” for their teams. Harden also barely made the teams for the Freshman/Sophomore games at All Star Weekend. These other guys have been in the spotlight for their franchises for 3 years, while Harden has served as third banana in OKC.
- Everyone talks about how Harden should have sacrificed…He already did. He came off the bench for the last 3 years. How many top 5 first rounds picks are willing to do that?
- This was the only time in Harden’s career that he would have leverage at his contract negotiations arguably.
- And yes, Harden did mention sacrificing money because this was a dynasty budding, as well as his family. I have no idea what to comment about that. Just proves that the NBA is a business…bottom line.
- OKC had enough money to get the max that Harden wanted. They made $30-35 million in a lockout shortened season. That’s at least $45 Million in a normal season. Money should not be an issue when you have the chance to win championships. The chance to win on this grand stage is extremely rare in the NBA..if you’re Sam Presti, you have to pony up and beg Clay Bennett for the money to pay ‘The Bearded One.’
With all those points in mind, the blame should be pointed to OKC for panicking when Harden and his agent didn’t take their best offer. OKC should have said ok we’ll keep you for one more year and come back to this issue next summer. Who knows maybe by then, OKC will have won a championship with this core? Sam Presti couldn’t wait and risk letting Harden go without getting anything in return.
A reliable source that I read online said that Presti offered this contract and said if you do not accept this then you are going to Houston. I bet that Harden and his agent felt like this was a bluff. Just another part of the negotiations. And that’s why Harden was so shocked when he came to Houston in those first interviews…you could see it in his face.
So should OKC fans be upset with management that they did not just give Harden the contract he wanted? No. The Thunder got a great return on Harden and got as much for him as the Magic did for Dwight Howard arguably.
Here’s a couple of key points that I have found online in the aftermath of the trade.
- Darnell Mayberry: “I contend that the Thunder was overvaluing Harden to begin with. He was a nice player, an important player. But he was third banana, a banana benefiting by playing mostly against subs while succeeding at other times while flanked by Kevin freaking Durant and Russell doggone Westbrook! Yet he wanted to be paid like a No. 1 option. Again, so it’s not misunderstood, Harden was valuable. But he wasn’t that valuable. OKC, however, flirted with paying him as though he is. The Thunder did more than flirt, actually. I’d call what the Thunder did making it to third base. And if OKC would have slide into home risking that type of money it undoubtedly would have been the biggest blunder we’ve seen yet.”
- Darnell Mayberry: “Not piling on to Harden here but just offering more perspective. Harden immediately will go from playing in front of 18,000 fans a night to 14,000. He just went from being featured on national television a league maximum 25 times to just two. He probably just lost his spot on the 2016 Olympic team (excluding rookie Anthony Davis, Deron Williams and Kevin Love were the only 2012 Olympians on Team USA from non-playoff teams. In 2008, Michael Redd and Dwyane Wade were the only Team USA members coming off non-playoff seasons). His enjoyable Foot Locker commercials are in jeopardy. And his future chances of making the All-Star team just took a huge hit (he was never going to be voted a starter by the fans, and coaches historically reward winning when deciding on the reserves). That’s a tough potential fall from grace.”
- Adrean Wojnarowski:
“After turning down a $52 million extension several days ago, Harden’s agent, Rob Pelinka, flew from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City on Friday for a final sit-down with Presti. He wanted a max contract of four years, $60 million for his client, and had come to Oklahoma City to push management as far as it would go on an offer.
Before sitting down a final time with Pelinka, Presti became more serious in his discussions with Morey. Houston wanted Harden badly, believed he would evolve into a transcendent franchise star for a championship-caliber team and planned to award him a five-year maximum contract worth nearly $80 million. So, Presti laid out what he wanted for Harden and the original price was steep: Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lamb and three first-round picks, including Houston’s own in 2013.
Across 72 hours and culminating on Friday night, the deal became this: Martin, Lamb and two first-round picks, including a guaranteed plumb lottery pick via Toronto. Before Presti sat down with Pelinka on Saturday morning to make his final offer of $54 million over four years, the Rockets were made to understand: If Harden turns it down, your long-awaited star is on his way to Texas.”