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OKC Thunder: James Harden trade on brink of season lifts cloud

COMMENTARY — Just when the question of James Harden threatened to hang over the Oklahoma City Thunder season, Sam Presti answered it.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 29, 2012

In other words, the number of teams the Thunder could negotiate with was limited.

Houston was one of those teams that was able and willing to sign Harden to a five-year max deal, but in order to do it, the Rockets need to sign Harden's extension before Wednesday's deadline. Otherwise, he would become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

And in order for Harden to sign that extension, all the players involved in the trade have to pass their physicals. That sounds like a minor thing, but with six players involved, getting all of them poked and prodded takes time.

Everyone in Oklahoma City knows that the physical is no rubber-stamp deal.

Remember the Tyson Chandler trade?

Back in 2009, he was traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the Thunder and looked like a much-needed answer in the post. Then Carlan Yates looked at the big fellow's surgically repaired big toe. The team's physician didn't like what he saw, and the Thunder nixed the deal.

The Rockets couldn't wait until Monday or Tuesday this week to do the trade for Harden. Otherwise, they might not have gotten everything done in time to sign his extension before Wednesday.

Presti knew the trigger had to be pulled.

He isn't gun-shy.

No one involved with the Thunder wanted to have to trade Harden, but doing it now gave the team the most leverage, the most options and the least distractions.

Maybe the Thunder would've handled the uncertainty.

“The only thing I can base (an opinion) on how we would react to that is that we have high character guys that understand what it is that we do,” Brooks said. “We have to do it every day, and we can't let outside distractions affect how we play.

“There's no way to know it, but knowing our guys, I don't think it would've been an issue.”

But now, the Thunder is sure of it. They can move ahead without having to answer the questions and face the uncertainty. They can focus on integrating the new guys and moving ahead.

They can exhale.

“It's tough when you're going through contract negotiations; you never know what's going to happen,” Durant said. “But to have our team and just know that we can move forward with these guys, it feels good.

“I think we'll be fine.”

No dark cloud here.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. You can also like her at, follow her at or view her personality page at