Thunder general manager Sam Presti wants what's best for the franchise's long-term future

To avoid the NBA's brutal luxury tax, sending James Harden to the Houston Rockets became a must.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 28, 2012

He doesn't do it the same way as Harden, but considering Martin has been a starter throughout his career yet will be playing primarily with the Thunder's second unit, he has a chance to really light some folks up.

Second, there's Jeremy Lamb. I have to admit I don't know a ton about the rookie wingman — my college basketball interest has waned in recent years — but Kevin Ollie speaks highly of him. The former Thunder guard is now the coach at Connecticut, where Lamb played the past three years, and from everything I saw, Ollie is one of the truly good guys in sports.

If he gives Lamb two thumbs up, as he did to Presti, that's a big-time endorsement.

As good as Martin and Lamb could be for the Thunder, though, the biggest thing this trade brought to Oklahoma City was hope for long-term success and stability.

I know that's not sexy, Thunder fans. I know you'd be a lot more fired up if this trade was all about winning a title now, but if Presti and the Thunder would've given Harden everything what he wanted, they would've been mortgaging the future. Maybe they would've been able to make good on it, but in a small market with an extremely punishing luxury-tax rate, it could've gone bad.

Really, really bad.

That might not provide solace for you, Thunder fans. You're hurting. You're worried. I understand.

So, I asked Presti on Sunday what he would say to you, the team's legions of passionate supporters who are lamenting Harden's departure.

“We probably share their appreciation for James,” he said. “I think he's a tremendous player. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to meet those (salary) expectations for him. When that happens, the focus needs to turn to what's best for this franchise, what's best for this organization.

“We've made an extraordinary effort to try to keep him here, but as I said before, you have to play the hand that you're dealt.”

He didn't want to have to make this play. He didn't want to see Harden leave.

But he didn't want to gamble away an extremely bright future either. That's pain he wants no Thunder fan to feel.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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