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#pounditSaturday, August 8, 2020

Thunder may have traded James Harden in part because of his partying

James Harden

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s decision to trade James Harden after their trip to the NBA Finals in 2012 remains one of the most significant in recent league history.

Since the trade, the Thunder have not made it back to the Finals, while Harden went on to become an MVP candidate and make the Houston Rockets a contender in the Western Conference.

Several reasons have been given for the trade. Oklahoma City did not want to go into the luxury tax and decided to pay Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka rather than Harden. They also may have felt that Harden’s skills were similar to what Durant and Westbrook already provided the team.

But on a recent podcast, Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler said Harden’s partying may have also been another factor.

“It was a lot more about James and James’ mindset. You’re kind of seeing it play out now in Houston, is what the Oklahoma City Thunder were afraid of, and that is, if you rewind back to the NBA Finals run, James was kind of a ghost in the NBA Finals. In Miami, there were rumors that he was out late on South Beach,” Kyler said via Pro Basketball Talk.

The Thunder lost that series in five games and Harden did not play well. He averaged 12.4 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting, down from the 16.8 points and 49.1 percent from the field he shot during the regular season.

Though there weren’t many publicized rumors about Harden partying on South Beach during that series in 2012, there were rumors that he was partying during the 2014 playoffs with the Rockets. Houston lost in the first round to Portland in six games that year.

After leading the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals last season, Houston has fallen off this year and the Harden-Dwight Howard pairing seems to have run its course.

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