That should be enough to get the Thunder the top seed. But then come the playoffs, which very well could be determined by who has integrated its newcomer(s) best. The Lakers with Nash and Howard; the Thunder with Kmart.
On the Thunder side, the starting five remains intact. That's novel in this fluid league.
“That starting five has done a good job over the years,” Scotty Brooks said, talking like it was the Dodger infield of Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell.
In reality, the quintet of Durant, Westbrook, Thabo, Ibaka and Perkins has been together since March 2011. That's 20 months. But that's a lifetime in the NBA. Check out the Mavs, if you don't believe it, and the roster overhaul they've endured since winning the '11 NBA title.
“We know we can play,” Thabo said. “I think it's a good thing we get to start the season with the same starting five. And we'll see where it goes from there. Definitely it's a good thing we have some chemistry going. We know each other's game. That's a big plus for us.”
But the plus could have been bigger. The Harden trade is good for OKC's long-term future. Maybe even for OKC's short-term future.
But for now, for this season? The Thunder surrendered the high ground.
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 FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.