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.