By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Berry Tramel painted a descriptive picture in his column last Monday, detailing a distraught and reflective James Harden in the hours following his trade from Oklahoma City to Houston.
Tramel’s source, who was around Harden in the aftermath, said the talented lefty was in stunned disbelief, incredulous that it happened and a bit angered at how it went down.
The biggest issue? Sam Presti, firm in his contract ceiling and trade threat, gave Harden only one hour to mull the final last-ditch offer.
And as Harden candidly revealed to Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday, that tight deadline and hardball stance didn’t sit well with him, souring relationships he had built.
“After everything we established – everything we had done – you give me an hour?” Harden told Wojnarowski on Monday afternoon. “This was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I wanted to go home and pray about it. It hurt me. It hurt.”
The regret and hard feelings aren’t gone, but have simmered, due in large part to the immediate success he’s had in Houston, scoring a career-high 45 points in his second outing and currently leading the NBA with 35.3 points per game.
“I was there with talented guys in Oklahoma City, some All-Star guys, and I would’ve been in the back seat there – which I was fine with – but I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to show how talented I really am,” Harden told Wojnarowski. “It’s a different opportunity for me here.”
“I heard a lot of those things,” Harden continued. “I heard that I was greedy; that I didn’t care about winning; heard the questioning of my loyalty. And I’m thinking: ‘Of course I want to win. I’ve been winning my entire life.’
Harden revealed even more in the informative piece (which you can read at length here), even praising the Thunder organization some, saying, ‘They built me there: my work ethic, my body. They changed my life. I think they know how good I can be.’
But the mutual respect between organization and former player, tested immensely during this drawn-out process, took a permanent hit, through a necessary but ugly ending.
Both have admitted the move may have been needed and both may experience long-term benefits from the split-up.
But in the here and now, Nov. 28 (when Houston travels to Oklahoma City) continues to get more interesting.