Before James Harden was unexpectedly traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets late Saturday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Thunder were the favorites to meet in the Western Conference finals. Now, that has all changed.
The Los Angeles Clippers and the Lakers biggest competition just took a huge hit.
The “reality” that the Thunder are a small market team that cannot afford a “big three” or a “big four” in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Harden, is a complete lie.
According to NBA.com, taxpayer funds paid to upgrade the area in Oklahoma. The group of CEOs and investors that own the Thunder could have put the money up just like the Miami Heat and Lakers ownership had to for players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
The Lakers refuse to comply with the luxury tax. Bryant has one of the biggest contracts in all of sports, making more per season than Cristiano Ronaldo and Deter Jeter. On top of that, the Lakers signed Nash, Dwight Howard and kept Pau Gasol. All three of these players have some of the highest contracts in the entire league.
Heat owner, Micky Arison, told CNBC that he will likely lose money but “This is a hobby of passion, it’s not a business.”
The jobs and net worth of the group of millionaires that own the Thunder franchise are easily available online. They could have given Harden the money he deserves and not even felt a hit.
Donald Sterling who owns the Clippers told the L.A. Times, “Chris Paul will be with me for a lifetime,” Sterling said. “And Blake [Griffin] will too. I’m not going to ever let these guys go. They are max players, and so you’re going to pay that and keep them.”
The Clippers probably would never have found another center with all the elements that DeAndre Jordan has. Centers are rare and it’s even rarer to find one is built like Jordan is and athletic. He’s even starting to get those Dwight Howard shoulders.
The Golden State Warriors put out a four-year, $43 million offer sheet for Jordan–which the Clippers had to match–because sometimes that’s what you have to do.
Regardless, Sterling opening his checkbook has worked. The Western Conference odds look a lot more favorable for the Clippers. Before the Harden trade, the Clippers were fighting for the third or fourth playoff spot. Now, they’re easily fighting the Thunder for second.
The Thunder had one of the best dynamics in the league, now risk being unable to repeat the success that they had last season.
With Harden gone, it will be one of the biggest disappointments in recent NBA history of the league if the Lakers fail to take the West. For the Clippers, the chances of meeting the Lakers in the Western Conference finals just got a lot better.