Unable to work out an extension with James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded the Sixth Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, breaking up the young core of the Western Conference champions.
Oklahoma City also sent former Kansas University center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston and acquired guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick in the surprising deal.
The Oct. 31 deadline to extend Harden or allow him to become a restricted free agent next July had been hanging over the Thunder from the moment they reported to training camp.
The small-market Thunder had already signed Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka to long-term deals, and apparently realized Harden was going to want a bigger salary than they would offer.
The Thunder got back a good scorer in Martin, who has averaged 18.4 points in his eight NBA seasons, and a promising young player in Lamb, the No. 12 pick in the draft who helped Connecticut win the 2011 NCAA championship. He led Houston's summer league team in scoring with 20 points per game.
The Rockets rebuilt their roster in the offseason and hoped to land Dwight Howard. Houston traded or released just about every veteran except Martin, who was in the final year of his contract and due about $13 million this season.
New Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin chimed in about the trade on Twitter.
"Really sad to see Kmart and JLamb go," Lin wrote. "...both class acts and great teammates. Welcome Harden, Cook, Aldrich and Hayward to Houston!!"
Aldrich averaged 1.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and .5 blocks in 7.1 minutes in his first two years in the NBA but was set to become the primary backup to Oklahoma City starter Kendrick Perkins in his third year. In six games for the Thunder this preseason, Aldrich averaged 6.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23.7 minutes.
In Houston, he'll reunite with former KU teammate Marcus Morris, a second-year forward, and will join a Rockets center rotation that includes offseason free agent signing Omer Asik and rookie Donatas Motiejunas.