On the eve of the NBA regular season, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a curious trade, sending one of their “Big Three” to the Houston Rockets when they dealt James Harden for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. The Thunder was thought to have a possible NBA Finals team before the trade, so messing with it is maybe not the way to go. If the two teams openers are any indication, the Rockets fans are much happier than the Thunder fans about the deal.
But Thunder fans, be patient. I saw Martin in his last game with the Rockets. That guy can shoot. But the Thunder fell to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday Night 86-84. This was a night after Harden went off for 37 points in leading the Rockets to a 101-92 win over the Detroit Pistons. ”It was definitely odd not playing and practicing with him,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said of Harden. ”But we still need to find a way to win.”
Tony Parker hit the game winning bucket at the buzzer leaving many to wonder if having Harden guarding him might have made the difference. Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 20 points and eight rebounds as they won the rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals, which was won by the Thunder. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
The “Big Market vs. Small Market” reality that is prevalent in the modern sports leagues bit the Thunder, as they were not able to pay Harden what he was worth. Houston gave him 80 million over five years.
in Detroit, Harden went for 37 as the new number one option for the Rockets, who also added Jeremy Lin in the off-season to an already young up and coming team. Carlos Delfino got hot from the three point area in the fourth quarter to help Harden bring the Rockets from 11 points behind to overtake the Pistons. Delfino hit four 3-pointers in the decisive fourth period. Harden also dished out 12 assists and Lin had 12 points and eight assists for the Rockets. Brandon Knight led Detroit with 15 points.
”I think I just wanted to get out there and play,” Harden said. ”All the talking and all the craziness that has been happening this last week – I just wanted to go out there and play basketball.”
”I just tried to score and create opportunities,” Harden said. ”Carlos Delfino came in hot. I just tried to get my bigs involved. A lot of different guys stepped up, and I think that’s how it’s going to be throughout this entire season.”