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The James Harden trade: early aftermath

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In a stunning move, the Oklahoma City Thunder failed to reach an agreement with James Harden. And just like that, he's gone.


James Harden, Oklahoma City's reigning 6th man of the year, is no longer an OKC resident. In a move that is sending shockwaves across the NBA landscape, Harden is now a Houston Rocket, as are Lazar Hayward, Daequan Cook, and Cole Aldrich. In return the Thunder have acquired veteran Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, and two 2013 first-round draft picks (from Dallas and Toronto) and a 2013 second-round pick via Charlotte from Houston.

Since I'll bet you weren't anticipating such fireworks to go down on a Saturday evening, I'll try to piece together some details as we've learned them, largely from Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski (hereafter referred to as "Woj"). I'll also include some reactions from various folk around the web. I'll run through this in quick fashion and attribute it to the source.

  1. OKC GM Sam Presti had been meeting with Harden's agent Rob Pelinka for the past two days. - Woj
  2. Harden turned down a 4 year, $52 million offer, instead pushing for the max of about $60 million over 4 years. - Woj
  3. "By the sounds of it, Harden’s agent is determined to get his client a max contract and isn’t willing to budge for less. What it will likely take is Harden stepping in to the negotiations and demanding it be done with. Which is what the Thunder are probably banking on. One side is trying to make the other blink. I’m feel strongly that it one side will before the Oct. 31 deadline. There’s too much at stake here." - Royce Young, Daily Thunder
  4. As one league executive with relationships on both sides of the talks said, "You're asking a player to take less money and remain a non-starter. Harden can start and go make more money. …That's a tough sell." - Woj
  5. After two days of negotiations, Woj tweeted at 9:43 PM ET,
    "Oklahoma City has traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets, league sources tell Y! Sports."
  6. Talks between Harden and Presti broke down, and then Presti "quickly" moved to trade Harden. - Woj

    My guess is that Presti already had Daryl Morey waiting on the phone. When the deal couldn't get done, Morey was ready to step in, in order to prevent a bidding war to erupt for Harden,thereby jacking up the price.
  7. The final deal that was offered to Harden was 4 years for $53-$54 million, and Harden balked. (Woj) I had predicted that the Thunder would offer him $52 million over 4, and their offer wasn't too much higher than that, but it was still materially below the max threshold.
  8. This point may be crucial - by going to Houston, Harden can be named their 'designated' player, and therefore signed to a FIVE year deal instead of a FOUR year deal. This thereby increases his contract potential, makes him more valuable to Houston, and thereby should have required greater compensation by the Rockets.
  9. Houston cannot yet start negotiating a new deal, due to CBA restrictions, but can begin to do so once the trade paperwork is complete. - (Woj)
  10. Sam Presti:

    "We wanted to sign James to an extension, but at the end of the day, these situations have to work for all those involved. Our ownership group again showed their commitment to the organization with several significant offers. We were unable to reach a mutual agreement, and therefore executed a trade that capitalized on the opportunity to bring in a player of Kevin’s caliber, a young talent like Jeremy and draft picks, which will be important to our organizational goal of a sustainable team. We appreciate James, Cole, Daequan and Lazar’s contributions to the Thunder organization and this community and wish them the best in the future."
  11. "Rockets GM Daryl Morey has unsuccessfully sought an A-list star via trade and free agency for years, missing out on the likes of Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and others. In Harden, his roster gets a new best player, a smooth all-around playmaker who has the ability to become a 20+ points per game scorer as a No. 1 option. He will pair with point guard Jeremy Lin, signed to a 3-year deal as a restricted free agent this summer. Houston likely doesn’t have sufficient pieces to make a playoff push in 2012-13, but Harden will make a nice franchise centerpiece as they look to build a winning program long-term." - Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated
  12. Kevin Martin, per Marc Spears:

    "Oh my Gosh! Feels like a dream. Sometimes words can't describe it."
  13. Apparently yesterday Jalen Rose predicted this trade would happen on NBA Countdown.
  14. Jalen Rose:

    "Why would OKC trade an explosive scorer in Harden. 1)max deal 2)w/KD & Russ he would never start. 3)Martin/PJ 3 will hold it down."
  15. More Jalen:

    "Why would Harden leave OKC. 1)max deal 2)to be the #1 guy 3)larger market/no state tax"
  16. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander:

    "We are very excited with tonight's trade...While I never like having to send out quality players like Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, this trade gives us a chance to make an immediate impact on the future of our franchise moving forward. James Harden was part of Team USA's gold medal team at the London Olympics and is one of the most skilled shooting guards in the NBA. James, along with the mix of young players we already have in place such as Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik give us a very solid group of young, talented players who will form the core of our team."
  17. Lastly, Kevin Durant:

Wow, indeed.
More to come.