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Rumor: Thunder traded James Harden because he partied too much during 2012 NBA Finals

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The James Harden trade is one of the most analyzed trades of all-time.

The 2012 deal, which sent Harden from the Thunder to the Rockets, backfired for Oklahoma City. Harden has developed into a star, and the Thunder didn’t get nearly enough return in hindsight.

But their thinking at the time of the trade has often been defended for two major reasons:

1. Oklahoma City — with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka already signed long-term – was wary of paying the luxury tax year after year. The salary cap has risen higher than anticipated, making this concern less important, but the Thunder probably couldn’t have known the cap would climb so quickly.

2. With Durant and Westbrook, Oklahoma City thought another perimeter scorer like Harden would be superfluous. The Thunder could turn Harden into a collection of more helpful assets, and the trade netted starting center Steven Adams.

Was there also another reason Oklahoma City — coming off a loss to the Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals — dealt Harden?

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

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.

Harden might have partied too much in Miami, though this also strikes me as the type of rumor people believe simply because it fits the facts.

After averaging 19.3 points per game on 49.1% shooting, including 39.1% on 3-pointers, in the regular season, Harden’s output plunged in the Finals — 12.4 points per game on 37.5% shooting, including 31.8% on 3-pointers.

Whatever caused Harden’s downturn, the Rockets have surely been glad to have him. They’ve certainly gotten more than enough production from him to justify the trade.

But Houston is also learning the pitfalls of relying on Harden.

Did the Thunder have reason to see those coming?

PBT Extra: How big a threat are Pelicans to Warriors?

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Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans were the surprise of the first round of the NBA playoffs. We knew they were good, but they looked dominant on both ends sweeping the three-seed Portland Trail Blazers right out of the postseason (and into a somber period of reflection).

New Orleans looked like the best team in the West in the first round and now they take all that momentum to Golden State where… let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In this PBT Extra I discuss how the Pelicans have found an identity, but the matchups against Warriors are dramatically more challenging than what they saw in Portland. And that’s before Stephen Curry returns to the fold.

The Pelicans are a great story, but the pecking order in the West is real for good reason.

Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee undergoes surgery to fix core-muscle injury

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DENVER — Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury.

The team said Plumlee had the procedure performed Thursday morning by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason.

The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.

 

PBT Extra: Spurs many off-season questions start with Kawhi Leonard

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San Antonio has a lot of roster questions heading into this summer. When Danny Green opts out at $10 million a year, how much do they offer to bring back a key wing defender? What about Tony Parker, an unrestricted free agent? Will Manu Ginobili come back at age 78 41 for another season?

But at the top of the list: Can the Spurs relationship with Kawhi Leonard be repaired?

If so, do they trust his health enough to offer him the $219 million designated veteran max extension?

If not, do they test the trade market (likely we will know the answer to that around the draft, well before July 1)?

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

NBA makes it official: LeBron did goaltend on Oladipo’s final shot

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Ultimately, this is moot. Nothing changes — not the critical last Pacers possession, not the fact LeBron James drained a three afterwards (and may well have anyway). All it provides is a little validation for frustrated Pacers fans and players.

Yes, LeBron did goaltend on Victor Oladipo‘s shot with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was then a tie game between the Pacers and Cavaliers. The NBA confirmed it in its Last Two Minute Report on Game 5 in that series. From the report.

“(Above the rim view) shows that James (CLE) blocks Oladipo’s (IND) shot attempt after it makes contact with the backboard.”

Oladipo called it goaltending. However, the officials didn’t call goaltending on the play, therefore it was not reviewable. Often on bang-bang plays like this one an official will call goaltending just to give themselves the chance to review it, but this crew did not (and that is a tough call to make accurately in real time).

From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

The report also concluded that it was Thaddeus Young who knocked the ball out of bounds on the baseline with 27.6 seconds left, knocking the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The ball bounced on the line — and was therefore out, but the official didn’t call it — then bounced back up, hit LeBron on the arm and went clearly out of bounds. The referee called the second bounce after it hit LeBron. From the report:

“(Video) shows that Young (IND) deflects the ball away from James (CLE) and it lands out of bounds, but there is no whistle. The ball then bounces and hits James’ arm and lands out of bounds again, which is called. Possession of the ball is incorrectly awarded to the Pacers.”

One other note to Pacers fans: The goaltending call is not why Indiana lost. Oladipo shot 2-of-15 on the night. Darren Collison had a very an off night, was not aggressive, and was 1-of-5 shooting. There are a myriad of plays and decisions that go into a game, one blown call is not why the Pacers lost.

The question is can they regroup at home, get more secondary playmaking and buckets from someone other Oladipo, and can their defense force a Game 7? It can, but they have to put the end of Game 5 behind them first.