James Harden will make his first trip to Oklahoma City wearing an opposing team's uniform on Wednesday night as his Houston Rockets face the Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. That entire sentence just felt weird to write. Many questions are on the top of Thunder fans as this is a new experience for Loud City. Is James Harden a Benedict Arnold? Would OKC be any better with The Beard? Did Sam Presti do the right thing?
I tackled these three questions with Royce Young over at ESPN's Daily Thunder Truehoop blog, as we prepare for the return of The Beard.
1. Should Thunder fans boo James Harden tonight?
Eddie Maisonet, The Sports Fan Journal/SB Nation: If they did I'd be thoroughly disappointed in them. Its easy to say what you would do if someone offered you $54-80 million to play basketball, but no one's knocking on your door to do such a thing. The Fear The Beard movement started in OKC, and we'll continue to cherish the 2009-12 Thunder era many moons from now.
2. Through 15 games, would this season look any different with Harden on the roster?
Maisonet: Oklahoma City probably wins 1-2 more games with Harden versus Kevin Martin, but 12-3 (with a 7-game winning streak) versus 11-4 (with a shuffled roster days before the regular season starts) with a 3-game lead in the division after 15 games? That's plenty acceptable either way you look at it.
3. With a month to reflect on, did Sam Presti make the right move?
Maisonet: It's still too early to tell. While I think the trade itself was great for the future, the trade told me that OKC never really intended to pay Harden anyway. Thusly, the Thunder were going to move in a different direction. What will be more interesting is the next couple of moves that are sitting on Presti's desk. Do they move Kendrick Perkins? Do they re-package Martin + picks for another stud wing? Do they re-sign Martin and move forward towards a title run? Presti's always been perceived as playing chess with checkers players, and time will tell if he's truly the Bobby Fischer of general managers or not.
One last thing...
An egregious prediction just because I haven't made any egregious prediction in an egregious amount of time: James Harden will get 30 points and 10 assists, but OKC will win with a....wait for it....Kevin Martin game winning three, 100-99. If this actually happens, I might run around my house butt naked. I'm serious bro...I just might do it.