OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Thunder introduced its new additions to the team roster Monday at their practice facility; one name was noticeably absent.
After a big weekend of negotiations, James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets.
Harden did not agree to the Thunder’s final offer and Houston gave him more money.
Kevin Durant said Monday it was tough and “a little awkward” not having Harden at practice.
Harden was the Thunder’s first ever draft pick in 2009.
He won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award coming off the bench.
He helped the Thunder get to this year’s NBA Finals.
Then he helped Team USA win Olympic gold.
He was best known to Thunder fans as “The Beard.”
Harden’s beard became a Thunder symbol.
So much so, a 20-by-16 foot version was hung on a city building during the 2012 playoffs.
But now Harden, and his beard, are gone.
“Aw man, I don’t know what they was doing,” one fan said. “Makes no sense.”
“Man that’s crazy. That’s crazy. We lost James?” another fan asked in disbelief.
After hearing Harden was traded to the Rockets, one fan sent News Channel 4 a photo showing his “Respect the Beard” shirt on fire.
Durant said he didn’t see the trade coming.
“Having James here, we kind of watched each other grow up,” he said. “It was tough.”
“It’s surprising, man, but it’s the NBA, man,” Russell Westbrook said. “Things happen each and every day, man, and I just gotta go with it.”
“We wish all those guys that we had well,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “They were great guys. I mean, it’s like family, but you have to move on and turn the page and look forward and we’re excited about what we have.”
The Thunder now welcome guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb to the team from Houston; two promising players who are the team’s future, as “The Beard,” shockingly, becomes part of the past.
“We wish James the best of luck in Houston but we just gotta focus on Oklahoma City,” Durant said.
The team is feeling optimistic about their new additions.
Martin averages more than 18 points a game and Lamb was a star on UConn’s national title team last year.