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.