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Kevin Durant shares his reaction to James Harden getting traded from the Thunder

The trade that stopped a possible dynasty.
Kevin Durant and James Harden

Kevin Durant and James Harden

A good argument could be made that the Oklahoma City Thunder of the 2010s had some of the best squads not to win a championship. Sam Presti did a fabulous job drafting and assembling a young team, bringing in guys like KD, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Green, etc. In 2012 they already went to the Finals, but that turned out to be the end of that young super-team after Harden got traded to the Rockets. OKC's leader Kevin Durant didn't really know how to react at the time.

Different time

Looking back at it ten years after, it seems crazy, but at the time, it was hard to tell what Harden could become. Still, Thunder fans had a feeling trading Harden was the wrong move. Splitting up their young core so soon after going to the Finals was a head-scratching move, and as it often is, it was all about the money.

KD and Westbrook had their big contracts, Perkins was set, and management had to make a decision between giving the money to Ibaka or Harden. But if they paid the luxury tax, the Thunder could have locked up their core for the future and competed for years to come. Even amnestying Perkins and his contract was an option, but Presti overvalued his veteran presence and role.

Presti didn't want to lose Harden for nothing the following offseason, and he decided to act quick, trading Harden to the Rockets only a few days before the start of the 2012-2013 season. Harden went to Houston along with a couple of role players in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and a couple of picks. At the time, it was shocking, but the feeling was both sides received valuable packages. But true Thunder fans knew what they lost.

KD's reaction

Aside from being a superb talent, Harden built a great friendship with Durant and Westbrook. So when the trade went down, it wasn't only bad from a basketball standpoint, but chemistry-wise.

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While talking with JJ Redick on his podcast, Durant revealed his reaction to the trade:

"At that point, like, I wasn't really into the business side of it...So, like, I didn't really know how to deal with it at that point. So it was just like 'I'm just focused on doing my job. Whoever come in here to play, it's cool.'"

Kevin Durant, The Old Man and the Three

Being only 24 years old at the time, Durant wasn't bothered about the front-office stuff and who Presti was bringing to the team. KD only cared about balling and improving himself, as it took until later in his career that Durant got involved in the assembling of his teams.

For KD, it didn't take long to realize that it was a mistake letting Harden go when he started posting huge numbers with the Rockets after serving as a 6th man for the Thunder:

"Cause James came off the bench for us and then you see how he plays as a starter it was just like 'Hold up. Was that a good move?' 4 to 5 years later, it's like even that first game, he had like 37, winning games. So in the moment, it was like alright let's just move on, we'll focus on who we have here."

Kevin Durant, The Old Man and the Three

Getting a proven veteran like Kevin Martin, a prosperous rookie in Jeremy Lamb, and picks was a good package, but the fact of the matter is that no trade should have been done in the first place. The Thunder management should have realized what they have and brought out the checkbooks, dominating the NBA for years.

They still managed to be competitive and close for years with KD and Russ, but there is a feeling Harden was the missing piece for going all the way. Instead, James was putting up big numbers in Houston and becoming a superstar. It's a real shame, especially for Thunder fans, that we didn't get to see more of the KD, Westbrook, and Harden trio.


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