Report: Mavericks, Rockets to make sure Thunder pay for Harden


When Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti was talking James Harden’s contract recently, he sounded a lot like your boss before he started talking about everyone taking furlough days — “we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization” and that kind of thing.

Which is because every dollar they can get Harden to give back to the franchise as a hometown discount is two dollars they save as they start to head over the luxury tax threshold.

But Harden wants a max contract and as ESPN’s Marc Stein noted on twitter there are teams ready to give him one next summer as a restricted free agent.

I know at least two teams near OKC (Houston & Dallas) that are huge Harden fans and will have cap space to sign him to loaded offer sheet

Make no mistake, Harden wants to stay in Oklahoma City and chase rings with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That is his preference. But this is business and this will be his first big contract (after his rookie deal). This is the contract that not only sets a player up for life (unless he blows the cash), it can set his family up for generations. A max deal is about $58 million over four years. This is not when you hand out your services at a discount.

In a world where Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert get max deals and Nicolas Batum comes close to one, Harden is a max player. It’s not close. He’s an All-Star and gold medal winner who just turned 23 and is getting better. He doesn’t have to take less than the max.

The Thunder knew this was coming, they have known since before the new CBA was signed the price Harden would command on the open market. They made their deal with Serge Ibaka knowing full well what the future costs of Harden would be. This is not on Harden, this is fully on the Thunder and their ownership. They can make the max offer before the Oct. 31 deadline for a contract extension and avoid the season of drama (they have no plans to trade him), or they can wait until next summer. Their call. The price isn’t changing.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.