NBA WEEK IN REVIEW: The shock’s slowly wearing off

3 Nov

Can you recall a more interestingly bizarre first week of the NBA season?

One week ago the questions going into the season were spicy enough topics:

Was this the begging of the Lebron dominated ascendancy where he’d win 3 of the next 5 NBA titles?

How long would it take for the Lakers to gel on their run to grab the Western Conference title from the OKC Thunder?

Ray Allen defecting to the Miami Heat, adding fuel to the recently developed rivalry with the Boston Celtics,
and the additions to the Celtics roster in wake of Allen’s departure; with Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.

A week ago about this time in the afternoon, I was smugly sporting my OKC Thunder playoff shirt, having excited discussions about the rapidly approaching San Antonio game on Nov. 1st. OKC was the defending champs of the West, and even with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, I felt like it was still their title to lose. It would be just a matter of getting better during playoff moments and adding another year of experience under the belts.

Last Saturday night, I was watching one of the College Football games when I saw James Harden’s name go across the ticker. I got excited because this was the news I was expecting–that the Thunder had finally reached an agreement with him.

TRADE??????????? TRADE!!!!!!!!!!! TRADE?????????????

What the FUCK?

Everyone in the room looked at each other in shock, my friend who’s a Heat fan laughed in excitement. I was stunned. Trade James Harden for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two draft picks. My main man James Harden, not only was he my 2nd favorite player on the team, but he was an integral part of last year’s playoff run. He was just going to get better, and when have you ever seen a title contender tinker with locker room chemistry after getting SO CLOSE to an NBA title?

Wow. I was too high to really deal with it the first night. When I woke up, I had to question if I dreamed seeing that news. However ESPN confirmed the awful news the next day when I checked the internet.

I knew last year’s team was special, even then I knew there was a chance that this particular group of guys was going to change. I knew there was a chance Royal Ivey wouldn’t get picked back up. I was hoping Derek Fisher’s Laker ass wouldn’t be returning. I did not see this coming, and was at least hoping they’d give it another run with the core before breaking up RUN OKC.

Tough night to be an Okie. Notre dame waxes the Sooner’s ass and the Thunder trade away one of the major championship cogs


I’d never seen anything play out like that deteriorating into a trade so suddenly. Maybe Presti didn’t want to drag it out? They say he would get the best deal if he traded Harden before the season began. Five days before the season started?

It wasn’t a very public affair, there were no shots traded through the media, so that is what makes it seem so shocking. There was so much time to still work a deal out, why did this seem odd, strange, almost spiteful. Like “Fuck you! We’ll send you to Houston, see how much you like being the man for a losing team.”

I blame both sides, if there is blame to assign. I definitely feel like there were so many avenues for management to take with this:

Give the team another run and then make decisions on who stays and who goes next off-season. This way you could determine whether it was a good idea to pay Kendrick Perkins big money or amnesty him, trade Ibaka Blocka Flame for prospects, find a suitable point guard so Westbrook can move to the 2, or give Harden an opportunity to show he’s worth max money.

The decision to trade him just seems haste. I almost feel like it had nothing to do with what was happening on the court. I wonder if the front office didn’t feel they could give max-money to a young man dumb enough to get filmed making it rain at the strip club.

Maybe this was brought up during negotiations and it put Harden off, causing a behind-the- scenes souring on both parties. Let’s not forget the terrible NBA Finals he had. He was so awful that I wondered if he was partying too much in South Beach during games 3 through 5. Anyone remember this?

If I recall correctly he’d missed a dunk or two that game also. That missed layup though was critical. Had he made that shot, we may only be talking about the nasty game that Westbrook brought that night rather than his gaffe during the endgame that sewed up the W for Miami. Of course they wouldn’t have even been in the NBA Finals had it not been for “Big Game James II” going HAM against the Lakers and Mavs.

Who’s to say after an Olympic year and the memory of that Finals wasn’t going to fuel him to put it altogether during a Contract year? If anyone was poised for a big year it was Harden. If any team was poised to dethrone Lebron and the Heat it was OKC.

Sure you get some future picks and more pieces for the future but you never know what is going to happen. Ask Penny Hardaway if there are any guarantees.

Which is why part of me feels disappointed that Harden wanted to leave a winning team to be the man on a losing team.
Was six million that big of a deal when you could make some serious loot off endorsements and playoff share?
At the age of 23 how much more money do you need? What can you get at 60 million that you can’t get at 54 million?
Reportedly everyone else had taken less to stay with the team except Harden.

There’s no guarantee that the next big contract would be there at age 27 (arguably a player’s prime)so I guess I see the urgency. If Harden is the kind of dude who plays for money and not championships, then maybe he is better off on a different team.

It feels kind of like a nasty break up. Except in break ups you don’t have to wait four years to get back together. Seeing Harden in a Rockets uniform is like seeing a girl you were in love with married to the very next guy she dated, only 2 months after you broke up.

I haven’t even processed the break up and this cat is already putting up monster games for the Rockets. OUCH. Big time. Much like a jilted lover, I’m looking at all the press clippings, calling up my friends in Houston to ask about him.

It’s just too soon.

I ain’t mad at ya mane. Make it rain down there in Houston

The Thunder definitely seemed like a team in shock against the Spurs. I’m sure it couldn’t have felt good knowing that the last time they played on the Spurs court they had Harden to go to war with. They played well enough to win, that is until Tony Parker took over the last minute of the game.

In addition to giving up Harden, they traded Cole Aldrich, Daquan Cook, and Lazar Hayward, and chose not to re-sign “Royale with Cheese” and “D-Fish”

That’s half of last year’s team gone, with a few new faces in Perry Jones III, Lamb, K-Mart, and Hasheem Thabeet.
It’s not easy to defend a Western Conference title with so much transition in the locker room. I imagine the shock is slowly wearing off and by next month, the 82 game machine will be in full tilt and it’ll be less foreign to see Harden in that Rocket Red and not in Thunder Blue ( I gotta give KD credit on how well he has managed to keep things moving forward–He was quoted after the Spurs game as saying “I back the front office fully on their decisions”).

By All Star Break we’ll see them getting comfortable with each other and I think the 2nd half is where we’ll get a true gauge of how this particular group will mesh. “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons is ready to write them off and hand it to the Lakers( kind of funny because I do recall him admonishing the Thunder for “reaching” for Harden when they could have Stephen Curry). I’m still in wait and see mode. This group may not be able to handle the Heat in June, but I think they can still handle the Lakers in April.

The jury is still out on the Lakers. They kind of look old right now, and Nash and Kobe are both already hurt. We don’t know how Dwight Howard’s back will hold up, Jamison and Artest (I refuse to call him World Peace)are both old. They looked terrible last night without Nash. I’m not sold on their bench either.

Maybe this makes the Spurs sleepers as well, but they still lack a big dude in the post to help out Tim Duncan.

So right now I feel like it’s too early to write the OKC boys off. I kind of like the look of this year’s team. I don’t doubt Westbrook and Durant’s drive to be champions. You definitely can’t doubt their talent. Who’s to say Miami stays healthy? Who’s to say Chris Bosh doesn’t come out and do something to ruin the locker room chemistry in Miami? Chicago seemed poised to knock off the Heat until D. Rose’s unfortunate ACL tear. But that is why they play the game. As my favorite sports reporter Chris Arnold used to say back int the day, ” You never know.”

I’m running with these boys again this year, and see where they take me. KD is right, time to move forward. And yes, I will definitely be attending a Rockets game or two this year to see my main man James put up some points. Happy for him that he gets to be 23 years old and get paid 80 million dollars to live in Houston. He’s going to have a good time. I just don’t think it will translate into a championship ring.

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