Right around the time his Oklahoma City Thunder squad was battling the Miami Heat in this year’s NBA Finals, James Harden began hearing his name linked to at least one trade proposal.
Mind you, not after the NBA Finals – during the NBA Finals.
According to various reports, OKC explored a deal that would send Harden to the Charlotte Bobcats in return for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft. The thought process, according to those reports, was that the Thunder would then use that second pick on Florida freshman, Bradley Beal.
Now, obviously, that didn’t happen. The Thunder kept Harden, the Bobcats took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2, and the Washington Wizards nabbed Beal at No. 3.
Still, the rumors were real. Initially, many assumed that the talk was just that – talk. However, in the lead-up to the draft, during an interview with ESPN, Bradley confirmed that OKC did at least ponder pulling the trigger in a potential deal for him.
Via that report:
The chances of a playoff team getting Beal are slim, but Finals runner-up Oklahoma City has invested quality time figuring out a way to get up high enough to land Beal.
Beal told ESPN.com Wednesday that Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti told him during an interview in Chicago that he was interested in trying to move up to draft him. The Thunder's first-round pick isn't until No. 28.
"He told me he was going to decide what they're going to do and considered getting up there," Beal said.
I've heard it a lot," Beal said of the Thunder scenario. "It's really interesting. I would love to play with Kevin Durant. (Russell) Westbrook, great point guard. Just the whole team. It's young -- I would love to play with a young team. They play fast. I'd love to get up and down, shoot the ball. Overall, whatever situation I Iand in I'll be happy."
Harden is set to become a restricted free agent next year. The general consensus seems to be that he’s a max-player, despite his woes in the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals this past season. Unfortunately, because OKC already has Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a couple of other pieces locked in, they may ultimately have to decide between paying Harden his big money and paying Serge Ibaka his big money.
Given that Ibaka’s skills are harder to replace, if anyone is allowed to walk, presumably that anyone is going to be Harden.
Before proceeding, it’s important to note that Harden has said on multiple occasions that he wants to stay with the Thunder. It’s very possible that he and OKC brass will work something out to keep their super team together; however, that something would have to involve Harden taking less money than he could probably get elsewhere.
With all that in mind, and given NBA players’ general apprehensiveness towards not getting what they feel they’re worth, some fans have been speculating that a divorce between Harden and OKC may be imminent regardless of what both parties say.
And that’s why this chain of tweets from yesterday set off alarms in the hearts and minds of Thunder fans everywhere:
James Harden Instagram'd this picture a bit ago and has since deleted it. I'm guessing it was an accident, I pray:twitpic.com/a5vrf8— Royce Young (@dailythunder) July 9, 2012
James Harden has NOT been traded anywhere, according to the team. Probably was hacked or something. Carry on.— Royce Young (@dailythunder) July 9, 2012
To be clear, Harden hasn't been traded and isn't going to be. And thus concludes the stupidest NBA non-story of the day.— Royce Young (@dailythunder) July 9, 2012
Some are saying Harden was fooled by a fake Woj account but from what I'm seeing, the fake tweet was about 6:30. I took the picture at 5:41.— Royce Young (@dailythunder) July 10, 2012
Once again, to reiterate what Royce Young said at the end: Harden didn’t get traded. But it is a strange thing for The Beard to have tweeted out – on many levels.
For one, the Hornets have been one The Association’s more active teams over the last few weeks, so them pulling the trigger on a transaction like this wouldn’t be shocking. Two, we’re neck deep in free agency/trade talks right now, so if Harden were to get moved, this would be as good a time as any. And three, Harden isn’t exactly a renowned practical joker on Twitter, it’s strage that he would go there.
The most likely scenario is that he got hacked. But this was still weird. Very, very weird.
(Kudos Royce Young)