Trae Young reflects on Harden/Russ in OKC
Prior to James Harden joining the Houston Rockets, he comprised the league’s best young trio in Oklahoma City, as he, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook were one of the most entertaining teams to watch. The Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena had a college-like atmosphere, which made it fun experience for Oklahomans to watch them play.
Oklahomans rallied around the Thunder, which makes sense considering how they’re the only professional sports franchise in all of the state. One of those Oklahomans was current Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young, who was raised in Norman and starred at Norman North High School before attending Oklahoma University, which is also in Norman.
Young explained his own personal fandom of the Russ/Harden/KD trio as a youth during the opening round of the NBA 2K tournament:
I had season tickets to the Thunder games since I was a kid so going to Thunder games and seeing Russ, KD, and James Harden when they were together, and going to the Finals and all that…”
As Young mentioned, the Thunder made it to the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, who had a trio of their own in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James. Although the Heat won that championship series, it was widely believed that the Thunder were going to be back, as Harden was only 22-years-old, while Russ and KD were both 23.
But Thunder GM Sam Presti had a different idea, as he sent Harden packing to Houston, prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, after trying to force Harden to take a less than max contract. Not only that, Presti gave The Beard an hour to accept the offer, which has ultimately proven to be a costly decision, as the Thunder never reached the Finals again.
This worked out for Houston Rockets fans in a major way, as the legend of The Beard was created in Houston, who has also become arguably the best offensive player in NBA history. It’s safe to say Harden wouldn’t have ever had the opportunity to display his brilliance were it not for Rockets GM Daryl Morey making the franchise-altering trade.