The Beard left the Thunder, and he wasn't the first to walk away from a good thing.
Shelly Long left “Cheers.” David Lee Roth bolted Van Halen. Lot left Uncle Abraham. It's right there in Genesis 13.
“And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great.”
No better description of what happened with James Harden and the Thunder.
We'll see Harden walk onto the court Sunday night to open the playoffs and think about what could have been. A love that should have lasted years.
But in truth, this was a union too successful for its own good. Harden and the Thunder just had too much. Too much talent, too much fortune, too much fame. NBA economics and NBA culture could not sustain so many phenoms in one place at one time.
We want to blame the Thunder for not offering Harden more. Want to blame Harden for not sacrificing.
But now we know. The Thunder offered more than it could afford. Harden already had sacrificed more than a reasonable mind could expect.
This was a parting that had to be. The Thunder has flourished without Harden. Harden has flourished without the Thunder.
“I think everybody's over it now,” Nick Collison said of the October trade that slapped Boomtown upside the head. “He's going to probably play against the Thunder 40 more times in his career, so eventually everyone's going to have to get over it.”
Six months clear of the trade has brought clarity.
The Thunder's four-year, $53-million offer to Harden was temporary salve. No way could the Thunder have afforded to pay their Four Tops a combined $59 million next season and $61 million in 2014-15.
Fear the Beard? Fear the Beard's salary.
A Thunder source told me that the final offer to Harden was just a way to keep the remarkable quartet together for another year or two, but NBA luxury taxes would have demanded that someone go. And the trade requirements on someone making that much money would have meant the Thunder would not have received a package close to the value of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a plum Toronto draft pick.
The gang would have been broken up eventually. The Thunder swapped a year or two more of the Tops together for equity down the road.
And Harden has shown why he needed to flee the shadow of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Harden has soared in Houston. He's become an All-Star knocking on the door of superstar status.
When Harden goes off for 30 in one of these games, or posts a triple-double, which he is quite capable of doing, pacify yourself with these cool thoughts.
Serge Ibaka's improved scoring. Durant's improved passing. Westbrook's improved everything, to the point he might make first-team all-NBA. Harden's departure has allowed his old pals to spread their wings just a little wider, too.
“James is a really good player,” Scotty Brooks said. “He developed into a really good player with us.
“But it seems like it was so long ago when the trade happened. We have moved on.”
So now it's time for the rest of us to do the same. Don't feel melancholy, Loud City, when Harden takes the court in enemy colors.
Cheer like crazy when Ibaka swats away a Harden drive, just as you would if Jeremy Lin was the victim. Be enraged when Harden unleashes that Eurostep that draws a foul.
I know we're still transitioning Harden from friend to foe. But it's OK to think of Harden as only someone that we used to love.
Because it had to be. For the very best of reasons, Oklahoma City could not sustain both sides, Thunder and Harden. For their possessions were so great.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.