Once upon a time, the Wizards fan base wished the team had traded away Bradley Beal.
At least the vast majority did. This is not revisionist history. Fans were in throwing things mode when a report in December of 2012 had Washington passing on an offer to acquire James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the poised 20-year-old's latest high-scoring postseason performance, nobody in the DMV is now thinking about trading the Wizard John Wall calls "Big Panda."
"The Washington Wizards turned down a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for James Harden this summer because team owner Ted Leonsis was unwilling to commit to what would have been a roughly $80 million, five-year contract for the high-scoring player, according to multiple people with knowledge of the proposed deal," the Washington Post reported.
"The Wizards would have sent rookie guard Bradley Beal and second-year forward Chris Singleton to the Thunder in return for Harden, winner of the NBA’s sixth-man award with Oklahoma City last season, according to these individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the proposal."
Unwilling to give Harden a max contract, OKC traded Harden to the Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and one second-rounder.
The move gave the middle-of-the-pack Rockets immediate credibility and in part helped land free agent Dwight Howard the following summer. Those two are now watching Beal and the Wizards after losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The report's timing couldn't have been worse for the local team and led to the latest round of Wizards bashing, a pastime all engaged in once or a dozen times over the lottery-bound years.
Harden started the 2012 campaign dropping buckets with greatest of ease, evolving into one of the league's top scorers. Meanwhile Beal initially looked like lost at work, hardly uncommon for most 19-year-olds at their first adult job. With Wall injured, the Wizards were in the midst of a 4-28 start to the season.
"Given that Oklahoma City got Kevin Martin and promising Jeremy Lamb (currently in the D-League) in return for Harden, I think the Thunder made the right decision (though I like Singleton as a solid reserve). The Wizards? Yeah, they botched this one, as usual," is what the Big Lead wrote following the Post story.
ProBasketballTalk: "As for the Wizards, I get [Wizards owner Ted Leonsis] wants to build through the draft, but you need a star to win in this league and Harden is an Olympian and a guy who has gone deep into the playoffs. He’s still learning how to be the focal point of a team. But he would have made the Wizards a lot better now and going forward. It’s the kind of aggressive deal that the best mid-market teams do."
Headline from Deadspin: "The Wizards Could Have Had James Harden, But The Wizards Are Not Allowed To Have Nice Things"
Now, remember that during the summer of 2012 the Wizards acquired two sizable contracts - Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor - on top of those already on the books, including Nene. Handing Harden a max deal would have meant luxury tax fears - and perhaps "derail the possibility of keeping John Wall for the long haul" which is part of what I wrote at the time. Let's also note Beal is still on his rookie contract, meaning Washington has money to spend elsewhere.
The story from all sides is far from over. It's unclear if a Wall-Harden backcourt could work since both dominate the ball, but Harden did just finish fifth in the league MVP voting. Clearly Wall and Beal form an ideal passer-shooter combo. We'll see how the pair evolve.
By the way, you know who 100 percent remembers all the knocks Washington took for passing on this deal. The owner, Ted Leonsis.
Wizards Fans above James Harden in Playoff Power Rankings http://t.co/HZM9Flruvu— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) May 5, 2014
The first line of Leonsis' blog post, "Just sayin."
Meanwhile if you want to watch "11 minutes of James Harden playing terrible, awful defense," here you go.