The Thunder, James Harden, and the day the music died

Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

A new chapter formally opens tonight as the Thunder embark on an unexpected journey.

We are but a few hours away from the inaugural game of the Thunder's 2012-13 season. When that ball goes up in the air, the cruel finality of this past week will become reality. There will be no James Harden to check into tonight's game, looking to carry the Thunder as they fight against the San Antonio Spurs' offensive onslaught. Instead, there will be Kevin Martin who is capable, Perry Jones III who is willing, Eric Maynor who is returning, and Nick Collison, who is experienced. Hopeful, right?

I have thought about this scenario for several days now. Like many other NBA fans, I live on the east coast and was right in the path of Hurricane Sandy. My town in central New Jersey is still without power, and not having power while living in an Internet world is a strange, strange thing. I mulled the whole Harden thing over and over in my mind while sitting in the dark, reading classic tomes of economics by candlelight, hoping that the wisdom of Bastiat and Friedman might give me some sense of perspective on what happened. I thought I'd have some revelation during that time that would help me come to terms, one way or another, with the Thunder's new reality.

You think though that your sports-molded heart would get broken when the Thunder lost in the Finals, but the truth in that is that is only part of the story we watch play out. There may be twists and turns that help us navigate from beginning to middle to end, but the story line is familiar and the actors are consistent. This thing though, this is different. It is as if you were sitting down to a Scorsese movie and in between Acts 3 and 4, De Niro gets swapped out for Daniel Radcliffe. It isn't that Harry Potter is a bad actor per se (although...Equus?), but it wasn't who you had invested in watching. The script has been changed irrevocably. An idea, so full of promise, is discarded.

Harden will still be a player to root for, because he is a fine player and he is a guy worth rooting for. He's great for the Rockets and great for the NBA. Now though, he's on the outside. He's another guy. He's not our guy.

We though, we still have guys. Two guys, in fact. Two guys who can, together, upend an entire league. Let Russell be Russell, let Durant be Durant, and the titans will fall. Build a Laker team that seems like it is invincible on paper. Let LeBron run wild. Tim Duncan and his gang aren't going anywhere. Durant and Westbrook can beat all of them.

The discarded idea is gone, but a new idea must take form. Two guys. One a spear, one a battering ram.

If you build it, they will destroy it.

It is time to unleash the dobermans.

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