Let me try this again. Um, wow.
Oklahoma City, who by all appearances was set to have another quiet deadline, just jumped up and made some noise. Not a little noise. Some serious noise. As in the Thunder just went from mild contender and likely second-round exit to a team people are legitimately afraid of.
It took making a tough decision in sending out well-loved Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic to Boston for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Upon first hearing about it, I had no idea what to think. Picturing this Thunder team without Uncle Jeff just didn’t seem possible. But once my attachment to him subsided, I was excited.
OKC is now a contender. Like a for real contender. Like a team that could potentially win now. No more of this wait until next year stuff. Wait until now. Because the Thunder is scary good.
What it took though, was making a very intentional decision to move on from the develop and build idea and go more into a win-now mode.
There has always been a very specific ideology for Sam Presti in Oklahoma City. Build a group of young players that can grow and develop together. It started in 2007 when he took Kevin Durant No. 2 overall and acquired the fifth pick Jeff Green for Ray Allen. From there, the pieces started to fit.
And this Thunder team jumped way ahead of schedule, winning 50 games last season. Because of that, the slow development process sped up. There was an obvious opportunity to win now, and while the existing team was definitely good, there was always something missing.
Most of that centered around Green and his starting power forward spot. There always appeared to just be something missing there. He was undersized, didn’t fit well next to Nenad Krstic and lacked on the glass and the defensive end. He could hit big shots and make big plays, but is was always clear that something wasn’t right.
So Presti put his finger on the big red button and finally pushed it.
A bittersweet day for Thunder fans as Green was a clear fan favorite. He was always close with teammates Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. He was always seen as one of the core members of this group. But in the world where what counts is wins and losses, not how much fun you have and how well you get along off the court, it was a deal that had to be done.
The Thunder already was uncertain about Green’s future, choosing not to sign him to an extension earlier in the season. He was set to become a restricted free agent this summer and even there, he was likely to get an offer that would be out of the Thunder’s comfort zone.
While Perkins is an unrestricted free agent, he fits what OKC would be willing to pay for. The Thunder tried to lock down a defensive-minded center two years ago when they traded for Tyson Chandler. But that deal was rescinded because of Chandler’s physical and it put OKC back to work finding that help inside.
There is some concern about Perkins’ health as he just returned from a torn ACL a month ago. But he’s played pretty well and looked healthy. Plus, he’s only 26. It’s not like he’s some old guy. He could potentially be as much a part of the long-term future for the Thunder as Green was. Think about that: Not only did Presti make a move for the present, he might have just made a terrific one for the future. Now that’s a good trade.
The offseason will be important because it would be a shame to lose him, but then again, if OKC was going to lose Green anyway, better to get two months out of Perkins and make a real run at this thing, right?
What the Thunder did here was make a move for the now, finally. At the same time though, it doesn’t jeopardize the future in any way. Green wasn’t a sure thing in OKC anyway, and now Perkins gets a two month audition to earn a contract with the Thunder. OKC has improved itself against the beastly interiors of Los Angeles and Dallas and now can match up with anyone.
It came at a cost of sending out one of the city’s favorite players and a close friend and teammate with Durant, Westbrook and Harden, but it had to be done. At some point, you’ve got to win.
This is a learning moment for Thunder fans too. We’ve kind of fallen in love with our guys and seeing them go is tough. But this is how this works. We haven’t had to really go through this yet. Seeing guys like Chris Wilcox and Earl Watson in other uniforms doesn’t really sting. But now we’ve lost Green, a player we’ve been building with. It’s hard to forget the Broingtons videos, the friendship with KD and how much of a stand up guy he is.
But it comes down to what he can actually do, on the floor. And with an uncertain contract situation and the fact he was potentially hurting the team more than helping, the Thunder took a chance to get better. Wins and losses are what really matter in the end and if this deal makes you better, you’re stupid for not making it.
It’s a shame that Green’s last play in OKC is likely an airball after a bad decision to shoot a 3. Kind of fitting, I suppose.
And don’t forget: The Thunder also picked up a servicable veteran center in Nazr Mohammed who is in the last year of his deal and only gave up two players that aren’t ever going to see the floor in OKC. So now the Thunder’s front line features Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Cole Aldrich and Nazr Mohammed. Not bad at all. The Thunder wanted to upgrade the frontline and did they ever.
(I don’t really care about getting Nate Robinson, because it really has very little affect on this team. I don’t even know how he’ll fit in. Eric Maynor is still the backup point guard and if anything, Robinson might find some minutes as the third point guard in front of Royal Ivey. If you’re wondering, Robinson is under contract through 2012.)
Offensively, OKC maybe loses a step in Green’s 15 points a game, but that’s what James Harden is for. Plus, given the minutes, Ibaka can put up good numbers too. And look at this starting five: Westbrook, Thabo, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins. Tell me that doesn’t look good.
No doubt this is a bit of a bittersweet day. But it was a necessary one. The Thunder just got better. Much better. In the end, that’s what’s most important.