After coming so close in last season's NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't ready to start the new season by merely maintaining the status quo.
That's why it's not all that surprising that, in an attempt to make an already strong returning team even stronger, the Thunder pulled off a nine-player deal late Saturday with the Houston Rockets, multiple sources reported.
The biggest stars of the deal were forward James Harden, who goes to the Rockets, and Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb are the highlight players that go from Houston up the road to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City also sent Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Rockets.
In return, the Rockets also sent the Thunder three draft picks, completing the huge nine-player deal.
Harden, who was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal in this summer's London Olympics, averaged nearly 17 points and over 4 rebounds per game last season. He had been seeking a large contract extension from the Thunder, who had already doled out big long-term deals to stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
But that will not be the case for Harden now, who will be left to negotiate a new long-term deal with his new team.
In a statement announcing the deal, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said the trade made great sense for both teams.
"We wanted to sign James to an extension, but at the end of the day, these situations have to work for all those involved," Presti said. "Our ownership group again showed their commitment to the organization with several significant offers.
"We were unable to reach a mutual agreement, and therefore executed a trade that capitalized on the opportunity to bring in a player of Kevin's caliber, a young talent like Jeremy and draft picks, which will be important to our organizational goal of a sustainable team. We appreciate James, Cole, Daequan and Lazar's contributions to the Thunder organization and this community and wish them the best in the future."