The San Antonio Spurs always are looking ahead. Now we know they're looking ahead to the Thunder.
The NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday, with no Dwight Howard deal or any other blockbuster. The Lakers' wheeling — Ramon Sessions in, Derek Fisher out — will get the national headlines.
But the Spurs' trade for Stephen Jackson will most impact the upcoming NBA playoffs.
San Antonio traded Richard Jefferson for Jackson, which means an upgrade on the court but a downgrade in chemistry.
Captain Jack is a total headcase and can wreck a franchise with the best of them. The mediocre Milwaukees even removed Jackson from the rotation, before trading him a few days ago.
Jackson went into the stands with Ron Artest during that awful Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004; he was with Kendrick Perkins in Beaumont, Texas, last summer, when whatever happened happened.
But the Spurs' Gregg Popovich has a little Bill Belichick in him. Pop doesn't mind taking on a problem child; Jackson himself helped the Spurs win the 2003 NBA title.
The addition of Jackson gives the Spurs a thorn in the flesh of Kevin Durant, should OKC and San Antonio engage in a playoff series. Jackson is a productive scorer (16.1 points a game, over 12 NBA seasons); not a good shooter (41.6 percent, career).
But the Spurs didn't get Jackson for offense. They got him for defense. The Spurs had no matchup for Durant. Now they do.
Jackson is a big (6-foot-8, 218 pounds), physical defender. That doesn't necessarily mean an edge to the Spurs in a potential Western Conference final. But it does lessen the edge; Durant is in for a rugged fortnight should the Spurs and their Oklahoma City twin meet.
Jackson is not Tony Allen; Durant won't have nightmares trying to free himself from Jackson's clutches. But Jackson can D up on KD. Good move by the Spurs.
Some of the rest of the West beefed up, too, while the Thunder stood pat.
Can't blame Sam Presti. The Thunder has a set hand, with the exception of an experienced backup point guard, and what we saw of James Harden the other night against Houston shows that Harden easily can run the offense when Russell Westbrook sits, or even when he doesn't.
The Thunder is not — I repeat, is NOT — going to do anything to upset the future financial stability of this franchise. Presti regards draft picks and promising but unproven talent — Cole Aldrich, Reggie Jackson — as gold bars.
So the Thunder was willing to let the Spurs, and the Los Angeles teams, and even potential first-round foes Denver and Houston tinker with their rosters.
The Lakers got better, but only marginally. Sessions is an upgrade over Fisher, but there will be something comforting for any foe not seeing Fisher in Laker gold. The old guy knows how to play, knows what his team needs and is one of the generation's best clutch playoff shooters.
The Thunder will take their chances with Ramon Sessions, who has started 89 of his 300 games, spent with the Bucks and the post-LeBron Cavaliers.
The Clippers found in Nick Young a replacement for the shooting void left by Chauncey Billups. But Young often will take 20 shots to get his 20 shots. That's about eight possessions per game in which Chris Paul is not lobbing the ball to Blake Griffin. So that's a deal that could go south.
Beware of Houston. The Rockets have beaten the Thunder twice already and now 7-foot Marcus Camby is headed to Houston, courtesy of the Portland fire sale.
The Rockets already had a shot-blocking fiend in Samuel Dalembert. Now the Rockets have another shot-blocking fiend, only they can throw the ball to this one. Camby could make Westbrook's and Harden's drives to the basket a lot more perilous in a best-of-seven series.
But the Nuggets have weakened themselves. If the Thunder is matched against Denver, no Nene, since he was shipped to the Wizards for JaVale McGee, a talented but undependable center with little offense and a lot of bad attitude.
Perkins was invaluable against Nene, a load of an offensive player. Now, he'll be needed less against the Nuggets, which means the Thunder offense will be even better.
Add it up, and the Western Conference just got tougher for the Thunder. But it's never not tough. And the Thunder can take solace in knowing that the toughest road in the West is for those who have to play Oklahoma City.
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 AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.