After 12 hours of the trade, I think my head has finally calmed down. I think.
When you look deep into the trade, a lot of things stand out. But, fans are starting to call James Harden greedy for turning the 4 year, $52 million deal. And, then you start to ask yourself a series of question; Why now? Who to blame? Now what? What does this mean? Are the Oklahoma City Thunder still a contender?
Lets take a step backwards for a second. Lets all remember what Harden said on Media day this year: “Oh yeah, yeah. Sacrifice. I think everybody on this team has sacrificed in their own way just for the better of the team. I think that’s why we’re so close. Like I said, I think everything will work itself out eventually.”
And after the finals loss:
“This team is like a family. Like, we’re really brothers. We hang out most of the time every single day. You won’t find any other team like this. I love it here. This is something special here. A dynasty is being built here. So we’re winning, we’re having fun and we’re brothers. The other stuff, you can’t buy it.”
One of the key messages this sends to Thunder fans is that the professional sports and business sides of the NBA are really ugly. Its either you are in a big market, and can bring in marquee talent in free-agency(Lakers), or you have to build on youth and through the draft(Thunder). Being in the small market Oklahoma City is in, Harden had to take less money to stay in the blue and yellow. Obviously, he didn’t want that.
So now what?
What this means is that the Thunder got worse. As much as I hate to say it, its true. When you lose a guy who can score like Harden, its not easy. Now, Serge Ibaka will have to step up and give the Thunder a consistent 15 to 20 points night in and night out. Hasheem Thabeet will be the back-up center in place of Cole Aldrich.
Are they a contender now?
Yes. No. Maybe. Possibly.