Sam Presti feels your pain, Thunder fans.
He wishes James Harden were still here, too.
A little over 12 hours after pulling the trigger on a six-player trade that sent Harden to Houston, Presti met the media Sunday looking tired and worn out. Red rimmed his eyes. The whites of them were slightly bloodshot.
He didn't have to say it; you could tell the past few days were tough.
“There's no perfect solution,” Presti said. “If there was, we wouldn't be sitting here right now.”
Thunder fans everywhere were hoping Presti had a silver bullet in trying to work out an extension with the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. That much was obvious by the outcry via social media and other outlets when the trade was announced Saturday night. There was shock. There was alarm. There was disappointment.
And that's perfectly reasonable.
If you care about this team, all of those emotions are absolutely understandable. Harden was not only a fan favorite but also a key piece of the puzzle. Think of all the outcomes he changed in the playoffs last season alone. Game 4 vs. Dallas. Game 2 vs. Los Angeles. Game 5 vs. San Antonio.
But ultimately, Thunder fans, you have to ask yourself this question — are you a bigger fan of the Beard or the boys in blue?
If you love Harden more than the Thunder, then you'll probably be at The Peake on Nov. 28, when the Rockets come to town, wearing a red Harden jersey and cheering for Houston.
But most of you, even the ones who wore those wacky fake beards, are Thunder fans first and foremost. And as difficult as it might seem right now, you'll ultimately understand this trade.
You might even come to like it.
Yes, Harden is gone, and he takes with him a unique combination of offensive skills. A guy who can slice through the lane and finish at the basket and create opportunities for teammates and knock down jumpers from all over the court? There aren't many players in the league with that skill set.
But the Thunder didn't come away with nothing in this trade.
First comes Kevin Martin, a guy who can be a deadly shooter. Think Mike Miller in the game that closed out the Thunder in the NBA Finals. Martin can get as hot as Miller got that night in Miami.
Don't misunderstand, though. He's not a streaky shooter. He's shot better than 40 percent from the floor in six of his eight NBA seasons, and the other two were better than 38 percent.
The guy can score it.
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.