The Oklahoma City Thunder got its first taste Thursday night of life without James Harden, part of a buzzer-beating 86-84 loss that should drive home the obvious and its consequences: A new era in Thunder basketball has begun, and that's one of several reasons the Western Conference is now up for grabs.
We're just a few games into the season, yes, but Oklahoma City's first game since shipping Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and draft picks was an appropriately close affair.
A reminder, even one game in, that every player added or subtracted from a roster can be a difference maker. Make that player one of Harden's tremendous ability who help the Thunder steamroll the Spurs in the playoffs last year and you can start to see the scales tipping back toward even.
Harden himself offered up his own reminder of his value Wednesday night in his Rockets debut: 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals.
Even a little bit of that excellence probably h...