James Harden Links: Martin, Thunder, Rockets

One of the most intriguing games on tonight's NBA schedule sees James Harden and the Rockets, coming off a Tuesday win over the Raptors, heading to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder. It was just a month ago that the two teams finalized the shocking trade that sent Harden to Houston, so plenty is being written today about that deal and the Sixth Man of the Year's return to OKC. Here are a few stories of note:

  • Harden downplayed tonight's contest, calling it "just another game," as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. However, Daequan Cook, who changed teams along with Harden in last month's deal, thinks the Rockets' star cares more than he lets on: "I know this game means a lot to him. He’s going to want to play his best basketball. This game means so much right now to him. You’re going to see a different mindset with him."
  • Kevin Martin has been a servicable replacement for Harden in Oklahoma City, but it's not clear how the team plans to replace that production when Martin's contract expires next summer, says ESPN.com's John Hollinger (Insider link). Hollinger's also wonders how the Thunder would have proceeded if Harden had accepted their $54MM extension offer, since even that non-maximum salary would have put the team well into luxury-tax territory next year.
  • ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst looks at how the Thunder have adjusted to losing Harden, with Kevin Durant noting that the club's "chemistry is getting better each day."
  • While the Thunder have played well without Harden, the team misses his pick-and-roll ability, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.
  • Both ESPN.com and The Oklahoman surveyed several writers on burning questions relating to the Harden trade, including whether dealing him was the right move and whether Russell Westbrook or Harden will be the better player in the long-term.
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