The NBA lockout was over for maybe 15 minutes when the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard trade talks started.
And the superstars weren't being offered to Milwaukee.
They've shrunk the NBA season, down to 66 games because of the lockout that stretched five months, and for what?
The NBA's major problem – the league's superstars all wanting to congregate in a few select markets – hasn't been solved one twit.
Paul already has been traded to Los Angeles, and the fact that it's the Clippers instead of the Lakers might make the other franchises feel better but doesn't do one thing for New Orleans.
And Howard seems headed out of Orlando for Brooklyn or LA.
Stark reality for Oklahoma City. The Great Lockout of 2011 was for naught. Had the lockout provided relief for small markets, for OKC and Salt Lake and New Orleans and Memphis and Portland and San Antonio and Orlando, then missing some basketball would have been stomachable.
Heck, miss the whole season if you have to, if it gave franchises like the Thunder a more equitable playing field.
But the lockout failed. The players took a lesser cut from league revenues, but nothing else has changed. The vaunted luxury tax hikes haven't slowed any of the big-market teams. The Knickerbockers already have spent $34 million for this year alone on just two players, Tyson Chandler and Chauncey Billups, the latter not to play in New York.
So now the Thunder knows. It got no collective-bargaining relief. The Thunder will have to win the NBA title or contend for the same, using the same methods that got OKC to the Western Conference Finals last spring.
Judicious spending. Superb scouting. Positive franchise atmosphere. And then a little luck never hurts while fighting the good fight.
It's not impossible. Heck, with this current Thunder team, not even improbable. The Thunder is as good a pick as any to win the West and take its chances against the likes of Miami or Chicago in the NBA Finals.
But now's as good a time as any to do just that, because the future is not so stable. Yes, for now, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seem perfectly content to play in little ol' OKC and fight the Goliaths.
And should the Thunder stage a championship parade on the Bricktown gondolas, the title will be even sweeter, knowing it came without competitive-balance help.
But make no mistake. Sam Presti's stated goal of sustainability, his dream of building an organization that retains its identity and success even beyond generational players like Durant, is much more difficult without help from the labor talks.
Without something like the franchise tag. The NFL makes it possible for a franchise to keep its superstar, so long as it's willing to pay him at an elite rate.
The NBA? No. LeBron would have made more money staying in Cleveland. Carmelo would have made more money staying in Denver. CP3 would have made more money staying in New Orleans.
But they preferred roster-building. Pro sports seemed a little crass when players just jumped for the biggest paycheck, but that didn't offend sensibilities like this Super Team phenomenon.
Shipping stars from small markets to desired markets is terrible for basketball competitiveness. It might be good for league revenues – fans like to watch Super Teams – but hope fades fast in places like Charlotte and Minnesota and Indianapolis.
At least hope floats in Oklahoma City, thanks to the lottery luck that landed Durant and the careful ways of Presti. OKC was in prime position to contend for a long time, had the NBA developed a system that better discouraged superstar manipulation.
But that didn't happen, so no use belly-aching about it. This is the system. The Thunder has to deal with it.
No reason for OKC to get an inferiority complex. No reason to think a title is an impossible dream. Not with what we've seen of this organization.
But also no reason for a superiority complex. Yes, it looks good, with all the young guns — Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka — just starting to hit their prime. But championships never are easily won. And now excellence can't be easily maintained.
The siren song will swirl around Durant and Westbrook. Maybe they will resist; Tim Duncan resisted. But the song will come. New York, it will whisper. LA, it will croon.
And even if the Thunder keeps its core together, the Super Teams aren't going away. The competition at the top is going to be fiercer. Fewer teams in the middle. More teams mired in mediocrity.
We wanted in this rat race. We wanted in the NBA. Well, here we are and this is the way it is.
The shrunken season might even work out famously for the Thunder. A stable roster should make for a fast start, and young legs should make for a strong finish. Truth is, the Thunder could win the 2012 NBA championship.
But the lockout failure will make future Thunder titles much more difficult to come by.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.