Everyone's favorite out-of-town NBA team just got approximately 40 percent less cool if Y! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski's reporting is accurate:
I mean, it's not accurate, really. He has been a Sixth Man of the Year and an Olympian, yes, but James Harden has never been an All-Star. And we can only assume the other names are meant to be spelled "Cole Aldrich," "Lazar Hayward" and "Daequan Cook." But Harden was a primo third wheel on a team that won the Western Conference last year, and until he rejected a four-year, $52 million contract earlier today, it appeared the Thunder were loaded for another run at the Finals.
In return for Harden (16.8 points, 4.1 boards, 3.7 dimes, 1.0 steals, .491 shooting, 1.0 awesome haircuts last season) the Thunder will receive a bunch of Rockets. Wait, you say. The Rockets are not very good. Who do they have to send to OKC except for players who will have a tough time filling James Harden's practically-an-all-star shoes? Well, that's a great question. Woj has answers. The Lakers look forward to June.
Also, the Oklahoman has a tidy explanation of why Harden's plump contract just wouldn't fit on the same ledger with Kevin Durant's and Russell Westbrook's:
[W]ith max contracts extended to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook—as well as more than $52 million invested in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins over the next three seasons alone—the Thunder faced the possibility of stiff penalties under the new, more punitive collective bargaining agreement.
Had the Thunder been able to ink Harden to a $13 million annual contract, a franchise playing in the league's third smallest market would have owed $67 million to just five players next season. That figure would have increased to $70 million in 2014-15 for those same five players.
The tax threshold for this season is $70.3 million. Starting next season, teams must pay an incremental rate starting at $1.50 for every dollar they exceed the threshold.
James Harden Traded To Houston [The Oklahoman]