U.S. Olympic basketball player Harden watches during a training session ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the M.E.N Arena in Manchester

Harden says he wants to stay with Thunder. But want is not the issue.

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James Harden likes being a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. A lot. If we take nothing else away from the recent discussion of his contract status, that much should be clear.

Of course, I want to live in a beachfront home in Malibu. Money often complicates what we want in life.

Harden was interviewed by Spanish sports site Marca.com (a story found by the fantastic Daily Thunder) and he once again waxes poetic… well, not exactly poetic but he’s pretty clear he likes playing in Oklahoma City and wants to stay when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

“I don’t know. I can’t make that decision,” Harden told Marca.com (about staying with Thunder). “I only focus on playing. I want to keep playing with the Thunder. I feel like home and the team is special. My teammates are like my family. We can do big things. We’ll see what happens.”

Ideally Harden wants to stay in Oklahoma City. He also wants and will get a max contract extension (four years, $58 million). There appears to be no hometown discount.

Where it gets complicated is how that contract — along with max deals for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and a new four-year, $48 million (or more with bonuses) contract for Serge Ibaka — pushes the small market Thunder into the luxury tax area. Probably $7 million to $12 million into the tax, depending on how they fill out the roster.

While the Thunder could save money by using their amnesty on Kendrick Perkins, that seems unwise with Dwight Howard now in the conference.

So the question becomes, will the Thunder owners bite the bullet and pay the tax? I still think the answer is yes. But we will need to see it to fully believe it.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.

Kevin Love drips snot all over his face, maybe into his mouth (video)

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Cameras zoomed in on Kevin Love at the wrong moment:

Need a sensory cleanser? Enjoy this fantastic outlet pass from Kevin Love to LeBron James:

Derrick Rose out for Knicks-Cavaliers with back injury, getting MRI

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22:  Derrick Rose #25 of the New York Knicks dribbles against the Portland Trail Blazers during their game at Madison Square Garden on November 22, 2016 in New York City.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Derrick Rose is missing the New York Knicks’ game against Cleveland because of lower back pain.

Rose left the Knicks’ victory over Miami on Tuesday in the third quarter with back spasms. Coach Jeff Hornacek says Rose still felt sore on Wednesday when he came in and met with team doctors, so they sent him for an MRI exam to make sure there was no structural damage.

Rose is averaging 16.7 points and this is the first game he’s missed this season.

Brandon Jennings will start in Rose’s place.