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Thunder general manager Sam Presti wants what's best for the franchise's long-term future

To avoid the NBA's brutal luxury tax, sending James Harden to the Houston Rockets became a must.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 28, 2012

Sam Presti feels your pain, Thunder fans.

He wishes James Harden were still here, too.

A little over 12 hours after pulling the trigger on a six-player trade that sent Harden to Houston, Presti met the media Sunday looking tired and worn out. Red rimmed his eyes. The whites of them were slightly bloodshot.

He didn't have to say it; you could tell the past few days were tough.

“There's no perfect solution,” Presti said. “If there was, we wouldn't be sitting here right now.”

Thunder fans everywhere were hoping Presti had a silver bullet in trying to work out an extension with the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. That much was obvious by the outcry via social media and other outlets when the trade was announced Saturday night. There was shock. There was alarm. There was disappointment.

And that's perfectly reasonable.

If you care about this team, all of those emotions are absolutely understandable. Harden was not only a fan favorite but also a key piece of the puzzle. Think of all the outcomes he changed in the playoffs last season alone. Game 4 vs. Dallas. Game 2 vs. Los Angeles. Game 5 vs. San Antonio.

But ultimately, Thunder fans, you have to ask yourself this question — are you a bigger fan of the Beard or the boys in blue?

If you love Harden more than the Thunder, then you'll probably be at The Peake on Nov. 28, when the Rockets come to town, wearing a red Harden jersey and cheering for Houston.

But most of you, even the ones who wore those wacky fake beards, are Thunder fans first and foremost. And as difficult as it might seem right now, you'll ultimately understand this trade.

You might even come to like it.

Yes, Harden is gone, and he takes with him a unique combination of offensive skills. A guy who can slice through the lane and finish at the basket and create opportunities for teammates and knock down jumpers from all over the court? There aren't many players in the league with that skill set.

But the Thunder didn't come away with nothing in this trade.

First comes Kevin Martin, a guy who can be a deadly shooter. Think Mike Miller in the game that closed out the Thunder in the NBA Finals. Martin can get as hot as Miller got that night in Miami.

Don't misunderstand, though. He's not a streaky shooter. He's shot better than 40 percent from the floor in six of his eight NBA seasons, and the other two were better than 38 percent.

The guy can score it.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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