The Oklahoma City Thunder have been checking things off of their to-do list in epic fashion this off-season. Sam Presti plays this game on All-Madden while many others are stuck on Rookie.
Draft a steal of a pick in Perry Jones III at the 28th pick? Check.
Witness four of his core players in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka thrive in London (and return healthy) during the 2012 Olympics? Check.
Sign one of his two potential marquee 2013 free-agents in Serge Ibaka? Check.
There's only one agenda item left up for discussion and debate, and that involve the man with the egregious haircut, egregious beard and the egregious game. James Harden.
Jenni Carlson from the Daily Oklahoman wrote a piece stating that Harden needs Oklahoma City more than the city needs him. Here's a snippet of the article that praises everything that Harden is, but reeks of super-conservatism that is as reactive as a parent who sends their kid to boarding school after they come home with their hair dyed green.
But you have to wonder if The Beard Express has a chance of running off the rail. Earlier this summer, his account on Instagram, a picture-based social media website, had a photo of a note with some news.
"JUST FOUND OUT I GOT TRADED TO THE HORNETS," it read. "I'LL MISS OKC."
Not long after, the picture was deleted. Turns out it was a hoax.
Hard to believe the Thunder was real happy that one of its potential franchise players is joking around about that.
Then again, that gold-and-black, tiger-print cowboy hat couldn't have been a big hit either.
But I'm telling you, the Thunder could use this to its advantage. Harden clearly has some wild child in him, and there's nothing wrong with that, but here's where the Thunder can make OKC a huge positive. Sell Harden and his people on the fact that he shouldn't live in party city with a bunch of money. Convince them that he can visit places like L.A. and Miami in the offseason but that he needs to spend most of his time in a place like Oklahoma City.
If James Harden were a 18-year old young man instead of the soon to be 23-year old man that he'll be on August 26th, and had promise and potential oozing out of him but also had a wild streak in him, then yes...I could see a parent having this discussion with him about where he went to school.
"Son, maybe you should choose BYU instead of Arizona State."
"Nah, I'm good. I'm going to Arizona State."
Arizona State, of course, is widely known as one of the nation's top party schools, is where James Harden probably learned a thing or three (goggles) about throwing a live party. This All-White Yacht Party, the third year in a row in which Harden has thrown it, was sponsored by the good folks at Ciroc Vodka and our boy P. Diddy.
If James Harden wants to ball out and party, I don't think the confines of Oklahoma City are going to prevent him from doing such a thing. Moreover, the decision on whether Harden should stay or leave, there's only two factors that really are going to come into play for Harden's future.
Money and winning.
Either choice is the right choice. In an industry where shelf lives aren't that long and crazy things happen, any person has the right to go out there and get as much money as humanly possible. Harden's going to be worth a ton on the open market, and he'll command gobs and gobs of money if he becomes available.
That's what Sam Presti's job is here for, to make sure that those things don't happen. Everyone knows now that the Thunder are ready to win, they want Harden to be a part of it, and the Thunder brass have a selling point that no other team can truly sell.
"We're the Oklahoma City Thunder. We're built for the long haul. We're here to try and win championships. We want to win with James Harden. James, you can either win with us, or play against us. Either way, we're moving forward towards a ring."
The choice is up to James, in those terms and those terms only. No white party or viral social media story can muddy up such a choice. The good thing is James knows it, even if some folks don't.