Tramel: OKC Thunder trading Steven Adams means a time to mourn & a time to dance
To every season there is a thing, and to this Thunder season, the thing is change.
From contender to lottery land. From relevant to irrelevant. From known to unknown. From stars to stashes in witness protection.
From Steven Adams roaming the prairie with his flowing locks and gold-toothed grin and irresistible charm to Adams now holding court in New Orleans.
And now we know what King Solomon, or his literary twin, meant in Ecclesiastes. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to break down and a time to build up. A time to keep and a time to cast away.
Ecclesiastes can get deep, but seems maybe we understand the book a little more when considering the context of the Thunder. The loss of Adams should make us both laugh and cry. Both mourn and dance.
Of course, there’s even a little bit in Ecclesiastes about anger, and Sam Presti stoked the wrath of Oklahomans by trading Stone Cold to the Pelicans.
Some have volunteered to provide the rail by which Presti could be run out of town. Others have sworn off the Thunder, saying their cold winter nights can be adequately filled by equally-intoxicating endeavors like crocheting and writing long letters to Facebook friends.
And maybe they mean it. Adams was a treasure and just might engender such passionate revolt.
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But before you curse the house of Presti and ban the Thunder from your soul, remember one thing. Presti’s trades — Dennis Schröder to the Lakers, Chris Paul to the Suns, Adams to the Pelicans — are a symptom, not the disease, of the NBA’s harsh reality.
Basketball is a transient business. It’s a transient business in the NBA, where free agency allows virtually unfettered player movement. It’s a transient business in college, where relaxation of transfer rules is all the rage. It’s a transient business in high school, where kids hop from team to team. Some teen-aged hoopsters have had more high schools than girlfriends.
Some 2,917 years after Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, singer Michael Martin Murphy penned an equally provocative thought. “Doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore?”
The answer is nope. Not much. Not in the NBA.
The Presti question is not why the Thunder keeps losing public institutions. The Presti question is, how has the Thunder kept such beloved ballplayers so long?
Kevin Durant, who left of his own volition, was with the franchise nine years. Russell Westbrook was a Thunder for 11 years. Nick Collison was a company man for 15 seasons.
The Thunder has been on the side of angels in the transient war.
Heck, when Adams was traded a week ago, he had been part of Big Blue for seven seasons.
Only 15 players in the NBA had been with their teams as long.
Eleven of the 15 are all-stars. Golden State’s Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Houston’s James Harden. Utah’s Rudy Gobert. Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal. Portland’s Damian Lillard. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic.
If you want to say that Middleton and Vucevic are all-stars only because the Eastern Conference has been short of talent for a decade, OK. I’m not here to argue.
But still. That leaves just four non-all-stars with employer longevity in Adams’ seven-year range. The Spurs’ Patty Mills, nine years. The Blazers’ C.J. McCollum, seven years. The Hornets’ Cody Zeller, seven years. The Heat’s Udonis Haslem, a Collison-clone, 17 years.
Roster stability is a myth. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is.
Being upset about Adams’ departure is a small step from being angry that Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph no longer quarterback the local football teams.
Adams’ exit is circle-of-life stuff. This is the price of being a major-league city. Occasional heartache comes with the deal.
The evidence is clear. Star players might — might, remember, might — stick around awhile. Other players don’t. They leave for playing-time reasons. They leave for financial reasons. They leave for competitive reasons.
The latter two factors compelled the Thunder to trade Adams, who clearly gave thumbs-up to the arrangement.
Adams is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $27 million this season. That’s more millions than games the Thunder will win this season. Maybe twice as many. The Thunder has no need for a $27-million center who is only going to help the team win a few more games and hurt its lottery chances in the draft.
Adams is still a heck of a ballplayer. Perhaps you’ve noticed all those years falling in love with the guy. He was headed to the open market next summer, and while he wasn’t going to get $27 million a year, Adams was going to get paid. New Orleans, in fact, already has, signing Stone Cold to an extension that pays him $35 million over the two seasons after this one.
Those are two seasons the Thunder will be building back towards contention. Paying Adams that kind of contract would be fiduciary malpractice.
And those of you who truly love Adams shouldn’t be angry with Presti. You should thank Presti. What a parachute landing for the Big Kiwi. Going to New Orleans, an up-and-coming team that needs a center who cares about defense and rebounding while not caring about shooting and scoring?
Adams is going to be great with the Pelicans, and it’s selfish for anyone in Oklahoma to wish he was still here, toiling away while the Thunder takes a break from trying to win games.
I get it. The Incredible Bulk was easy to love. I don’t know why we never got around to calling Adams “The Big Easy,” before he was traded to the city with that name.
But sometimes you have to let go those you love. To everything there is a season, and the purpose for this time is for the Thunder to break down before it can build up, and produce another player like Adams who can make you dance.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.