The impact of the OKC Thunder’s stunning trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets in late October will be felt for years. So far this season, the Thunder have done just fine without Harden, posting the third best overall record in the NBA (and are currently just three games back of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference standings.)
Most observers expect the absence of James Harden to be felt come Playoff time, when defenses will inevitably tighten up and make things much tougher on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Have no fear, says KD. The Thunder superstar thinks he can single-handedly make up for Harden’s loss.
Per the LA Times:
Could the Thunder be walking a playoff tightrope without the dynamic talent that (Steve) Kerr called “probably its best one-on-one player”? “A lot of people say that,” Durant said. “I don’t want to be arrogant or nothing, but I think I can fill that void. I can put the ball in the basket. That’s what I was born to do. Some nights they need me to do that, some nights we don’t need me to do that. But when the time comes, Coach [Scott Brooks] is going to call my number and I’ve been practicing my whole life to come through. So we’ll see what happens.”
“As we gain experience,” Brooks said, “we’re going to find different ways to score and I think that’s been the natural progression of our group individually and collectively as a team.”
In Houston, James Harden is morphing into a superstar and attempting to lead the Rockets back into the Playoffs (after posting 16.8 points per game for the Thunder last season, while coming off the bench.)
Kevin Durant is confident in his abilities to make up for any of his team’s perceived shortcomings going forward, and he has good reason to feel that way. But to claim that OKC isn’t diminished without the Bearded One, would be folly.