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Berry Tramel: Thunder made the right move with James Harden

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 3, 2010 at 8:57 am •  Published: March 3, 2010

Tyreke Evans showed the Thunder what it missed. The Thunder showed Evans why it’s happy with what it has.

The Boomers beat the Sacramento Kings 113-107 Tuesday night at the Ford Center, running their record to 36-23, a season-high 13 games above .500 in this remarkable NBA turnaround.

The Thunder soars despite bypassing Evans in the 2009 draft, picking James Harden No. 3 overall. So Sacramento took Evans at No. 4, and now he’s the runaway leader for Rookie of the Year and a future superstar. Evans scored 27 points on the Thunder and kept this game close until the final seconds.

Put the 20-year-old Evans in a lineup with Kevin Durant (21), Russell Westbrook (21) and Jeff Green (23), and Oklahoma City imaginations, already spinning wildly, reach the stratosphere.

But don’t call taking Harden a draft blunder, despite the one-sidedness of their rookie stats and Tuesday night matchup. Harden has been a solid addition to the Thunder as its sixth man.

And besides, the Thunder already had a Tyreke Evans, Overdrive Edition.

Russell Westbrook’s ascension to stardom continued Tuesday night: 30 points, 13 assists, five rebounds. And these days, that’s not even an outrageous game for Westbrook.

"A real handful,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said of Westbrook. "He’s got extreme speed and quickness, plus exceptional size in that package. He plays with a passion. He keeps improving on both ends of the floor.”

Toss in Durant (39 points and 10 rebounds) and Evans, and "there was some phenomenal young talent on display tonight,” Westphal said. "Those three guys playing at the top of their game. It was high-level basketball.”

Dreamers can wish for a Durant-Westbrook-Green-Evans quartet, but think it through. Wouldn’t have worked.

The Thunder liked Evans in the scouting process. Liked him a lot. But Evans needs the ball in his hands to be effective; the Sacramento offense runs through him. And rightly so. Evans gave defensive demon Thabo Sefolosha fits all night.

But if you’ve got the ball in Evans’ hands, it’s not in Westbrook’s, and who thinks that’s a good idea?

"Tyreke is as good as any rookie in the league right now,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

Tuesday night's box score
by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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Thunder at Nuggets
When: 8 tonight

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver

TV: KSBI-TV (Cox 15)

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, 640-AM

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