Sam Amick of USA Today: “They spent four months negotiating with him and his agent, Rob Pelinka, and anyone who had tracked the career of the team’s general manager, Sam Presti, knows of his tendency to act deliberately and, when necessary, swiftly. So with Harden hell-bent on landing a maximum deal of four years and $58.5 million, Presti dealt him (with three others) to Houston for veteran scorer Kevin Martin, rookie shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick. Harden, who told USA TODAY Sports that the final offer from the Thunder was for four years and $53 million, said he was not aware that Houston was a possibility until the deal was done.”
Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “The results were fairly predictable, too. With Chandler Parsons (shoulder) and Carlos Delfino (groin) out injured and unavailable to stretch the floor — and Thunder defenders knowing Harden’s tendencies better than anyone — they smothered him with relentless aggression and precision. Harden wound up seeing six of his 16 shots blocked by a defense that made it immediately clear that there would be nothing resembling the lefty’s 82-point spree in his first two games after OKC stunned the entire NBA by trading him to Houston on Oct. 27 when contract extension talks collapsed.”
John Hollinger of ESPN.com: “The Thunder, in other words, might be 2 percent worse with Martin replacing Harden, but they have ways to make up for the drop-off — getting more production from their center position, their backup point guard spot or their laughably unproductive starting group could more than make up for it. They’ve left themselves in position to do one more of the three (one item to watch: They have a $1.28 million trade exception active for three more weeks and just enough wiggle room under the tax to take in such a deal).”
Ben Golliver of SI.com: ” Harden played a “C-” minus game but even an “A+” night wasn’t going to be enough. The talent disparity between these two teams, in all facets, is too vast. OKC came into the game ranked No. 3 in offensive efficiency (points scored per possession) and No. 7 in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession). Both marks are reflective of a hard-working team and a roster that still fits together nicely, even in the post-Harden era. This is a team that can beat you in so many ways. On Wednesday, the Thunder stuck to the most direct route, feeding three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant, who was way too much for any of Parsons’ replacements to handle.”
Chris Broussard of ESPN.com on Kevin Martin: “But while Crawford, one of the nicest guys in the league, was far from a loser, it took a trade to Atlanta in 2009 for him to prove it. Moved to the role of sixth man, he enjoyed the best season of his career, averaging 18 points on career-high 45 percent shooting while helping the Hawks reach the playoffs. Interestingly, Crawford has been at his best on good teams. After struggling on Portland’s sinking ship last season, he’s leading the rejuvenated Clippers in scoring (18.6) while shooting 47 percent from the field. Now, the same herky-jerky, over-dribbling, one-on-one moves that used to get Crawford criticized are garnering praise. The same reputation transformation probably awaits Martin. For his part, he claims he couldn’t care less. He says the people who matter always knew he could play.”
The Mavs signed Derek Fisher.
Eddie Maisonet of SB Nation: “You could say that James Harden was neglected by the Thunder brass. Deciding to give big money to players like Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka instead of the reigning sixth man of the year. Instead of giving the maximum effort (dollars) to Harden when contract negotiations were taking place could be seen as mistreatment. (Actually, the rush job of “sign this now, you’ve got one hour or we’re moving forward with a trade” by Sam Presti is the bigger form of mistreatment, but I digress.) Things probably could’ve been managed better you could say.”
Important observation from Trey Kerby: “When the Thunder scrubs take the court, eight of their ten legs are sleeved. That’s too much.”
Zach Harper of CBSSports.com on Harden’s return: “This was not the storybook return James Harden was hoping for. The Oklahoma City Thunder destroyed Harden’s Rockets and held him to a pretty terrible shooting night. He finished with 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting and had just three assists while turning the ball over three times. The Rockets shut down any Rockets attack centered around him early and dominated from start to finish.”
Darnell Mayberry: The Thunder did a terrific job of slamming the door on Harden in the pick-and-roll. It was reminiscent of what Miami did to Harden in the Finals. OKC’s bigs played aggressive on the perimeter, staying locked to Harden and forcing him to see two bodies all night. It effectively eliminated Harden’s driving lanes and his kick outs to the open man.”
From Elias: “James Harden shot only 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) from the field in his first game as a visitor at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Houston’s loss to the Thunder on Wednesday night. Harden only had one game with a lower field-goal percentage on at least 10 attempts in that arena when he was a member of the Thunder, going 2-for-12 from the field (16.7 percent) against Denver on February 19, 2012.”
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