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OKC Thunder: Q&A with Tom Penn

Penn is a former Portland Trail Blazers vice president of basketball operations and current ESPN NBA analyst
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 30, 2013



What was your reaction to the James Harden trade?

“Back then I was surprised when it happened because I felt like he was so critically important to their championship run and their chance to win that I had expected that there would be a long-term agreement. That being said, the deal Sam Presti was able to get brought back substantial assets for James Harden. They obviously made the strategic decision to trade him at a time when they could get assets for him rather than be all or nothing a year from that time.”

What made you look at the trade differently as time went on?

“The team's obviously performed very, very well. Kevin Martin's been what they expected, a positional replacement who puts up good numbers, provides spark off the bench and is thrilled to do it. That was the other factor with James, how satisfied was he going to continue to be in the second-fiddle role so to speak. He's obviously embraced the opportunity to be “The Man” in Houston. He's performed quite well. So it's difficult to know how he would have been had he stayed in that role in Oklahoma City with that collection of talent.”

Would the Thunder still have been able to get substantial assets had the team waited to make a deal?

“Well, next summer they would have had restricted free agency rights on James Harden. So they were not going to lose James Harden unless they chose to. But they would have been staring in the face of what I like to call a toxic offer from another team where there would have been many incentives for them not to match. For example, a large, frontloaded salary, or a signing bonus, combined with an all max-out offer that would have taken them year over year deep into the luxury tax. And next year begins the new luxury tax system, which is far more punitive than the old system. So all those factors combined would have made it a true all or nothing and an expensive one.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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