5 min read

Wednesday Bolts – 10.31.12

Wednesday Bolts – 10.31.12

Bill Simmons continues to dislike OKC’s trade: “In the Thunder’s case, we only knew that they had three of the 20 best guys in the league, all under 25, all of whom loved playing together. There are no sure things in the NBA, but that previous sentence was about as sure as it gets. Less than 100 hours ago, I thought the Thunder were headed for another Finals and another chance at toppling LeBron and Wade. That’s not happening with Jeremy Lamb and Kevin Martin. Instead, they made a different kind of history: becoming the first NBA contender that ever jeopardized multiple titles for financial reasons and financial reasons only. It’s never happened before. They also walked away from the photo that adorns this column, as well as everything I ever thought sports was about. Other than that, the Harden trade wasn’t that big of a deal. You want predictions for the 2012-13 season from me? I have two and two only. 1. Miami is going to beat the Lakers in the Finals. 2. Oklahoma City will rue the day it traded James Harden.”

Amin Elhassan for ESPN.com on rookie contracts to extend: “This name might come as a curveball to many. After a strong sophomore season where he flourished as a playmaker (and ran point guard in crunch time, shifting Westbrook off the ball), he saw his third year almost completely obliterated by an ACL injury. Maynor is exactly what a team is looking for in a backup in terms of being a playmaker, perimeter threat and decent on-ball defender. With Harden’s trade to Houston, Maynor’s importance to Oklahoma City increases as the main playmaker off the bench, particularly as the Thunder try to maintain continuity in their organization. Thunder GM Sam Presti has already stated he’s going to let the season play out, but if a deal can be struck with Maynor, I think you have to move to lock him up.”

Zach Lowe of Grantland says Serge Ibaka is the most important player in the league this year: “It was true before the James Harden trade, and it’s probably even more true now: Ibaka is the most important player in the league. The Thunder have made a long-term bet that two wings and one big man is a better big-money core than three wings and a patchwork of cost-effective bigs. The Harden–Russell Westbrook–Kevin Durant trio would have always presented some redundancies, but they are all more or less sure All-Star talents. Ibaka, despite the astounding shot blocks and bogus runner-up finish in last season’s Defensive Player of the Year voting, isn’t at that level. He has to at least approach it for the Thunder to remain title contenders this season and going forward.”

Nick Collison’s diary returns: “I am all-in these days, Diary. There can be no tiptoeing. I do everything all the way. There are no half measures. Not in Walter White’s Albuquerque and not in this empty world. You go full or you don’t go at all. I am a Pontic Aztec and I run into the wolves that are the dealers. But I have no Jesse. I am alone. So I tell myself to run. I run to the ocean. There is salt in the air around me and I know I am close and that is good. Sonic Happy Hour good. I invite the wolves to give chase. Come at me, bros.”

J.A. Adande of ESPN.com on the Western impact of the Harden trade: “The camaraderie on the Thunder has been charming. One member of the organization referred to them as “a college team kicking ass in the NBA.” I liked to call them Carver High, after the squad in the “White Shadow” TV show. No more collegial atmosphere. No more Carver High. After this move, the Thunder are strictly business. And what of the fans? The Thunder enjoy a bond with the community that is unmatched in the NBA, and no player enjoyed a greater connection with that vocal crowd than Harden. You could see it with all the beards strapped onto fans wearing No. 13 jerseys. You could hear it in the roar whenever he checked into the game.”

Perry Jones’s snake will kill you.

Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.com looking at the East side of it: “The most aggravating argument in favor of Harden in Oklahoma City is that he’s what made the Thunder unique/special. I’m sorry, but no. What makes the Thunder special is they have a 24-year-old, near 7-footer who can score from any spot on the floor with ease. What makes them unique is that they have arguably the game’s best athlete, and he plays the point guard position. What makes them special is that they have a 23-year-old who easily led the league in blocks last season and has scary potential. Harden is an excellent player — one whom Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will even say you must thoroughly prepare for defensively, which his Heat obviously did last postseason.”

One Thunder fan penned a really great goodbye to James Harden. Highly recommend reading it.

SLAM has KD No. 2: “Durant has a supernatural scoring touch and he’s still learning new ways to get buckets. He’s on his way to being a true rival to LeBron. In the Playoffs, Durant couldn’t help the Thunder beat the Heat, but he officially arrived at a point where he’ll be competing directly against LeBron for a while. If that’s so, eyes from far and wide will turn to OKC and the shape of the NBA will be forever changed. The last NBA Finals was totally new territory for OKC and Durant has a habit of maturing and adapting to new territory quickly.”

Berry Tramel on if Harden had signed: “OK, let’s move to 2014-15. In that season, the Thunder would be committed to $74 million for six players — Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Harden, Collison and Perkins. You can’t fill out the rest of the roster with minimum salaries, so the payroll would start to expand. Let’s add eight players, at $1.5 million each. That’s still bare bones. But it’s $12 million. So that’s $86 million. Let’s say the luxury tax goes up to $74 million, which is fairly generous. The Thunder’s luxury tax would be $21.25 million. That’s serious money. Again, you could amnesty Perkins, but the hole would be even greater in this season, because you would be down to five core players accounting for most of the payroll.”

Jeff Caplan of NBA.com on Ibaka: “With Harden out of the picture, Ibaka’s offensive game could be asked to expand. His numbers, both scoring and rebounding, have remained the same the last two seasons. But put aside scoring for the moment — Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin will provide plenty — if the Thunder expect to get past the game’s best rebounder and the transformed Lakers and return to the NBA Finals, Ibaka will have to become a far greater force on the defensive boards.”