When the Oklahoma City Thunder inked Serge Ibaka to a new four-year, $48 million deal fans of 29 other teams licked their lips and thought “now they can’t keep James Harden, too, can they? Maybe we can get him.”
“We’re going to continue our conversations with James. We very much value him,” Presti said. “We want him to be a part of our organization moving forward. We’re excited that he’s a member of the Thunder and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us for years moving forward.”
The plan has always been to keep the core together, then fill in around then with whatever they can find affordably. If you don’t think that will work, I’d ask you to look toward Miami. And their ownership has said they are willing to pay the luxury tax to keep the core together. They are in a small market and can’t go Lakers with the payroll, but they can pay more than they have (and they can amnesty Kendrick Perkins to save money).
Ibaka took a little less than he might have gotten on the open market to stay with the Thunder, and they will likely ask Harden to do the same. If he balks at that, they will extend him a qualifying offer and as a restricted free agent next summer Harden will go out and some team (maybe multiple teams) will offer him a max contract. Then the Thunder ownership will have the call to make — at that point it’s beyond what the GM wants, when the checks get that big it’s an ownership call.
And despite what fans are dreaming elsewhere, I’d be shocked to see Harden in anything but a Thunder uniform when this is all done.