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James Harden says he is “pretty sure” he re-signs with Thunder

Aug 7, 2012, 11:22 AM EST

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 Reuters

The Oklahoma City Thunder have some serious salary cap issues to deal with in the future — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have their max extensions already, James Harden and Serge Ibaka are coming up. The Thunder need to save money somewhere.

It’s not going to be with Harden. He is getting a max offer. You don’t let a Sixth Man of the Year and Olympian at age 22 slip away.

And Harden doesn’t want to leave. He told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated he is staying put (via SLAM).

“I’m pretty, a hundred percent, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be in Oklahoma City,” Harden said with a slight stutter. “I’ll let my agent and Mr. Presti and [Thunder owner Clay] Bennett discuss all that, so I’ll let them handle that and stay out of it for right now and worry about the USA Olympics.”

When asked if he was at all enamored with the idea of being a more featured player elsewhere, Harden said, “I love winning. We have some great guys over here, something special, something I don’t think any other team in the NBA has – young guys who got drafted basically together, year after year after year. We’ve got something special, so I’m focused on what we have and trying to win a championship with these guys.”

Every struggling team seems to want to follow the “Oklahoma City model” for building a winner (which is really the Spurs model for a new generation). Because getting then nailing three top-five draft picks in three consecutive drafts is cake.

But more than that, what Presti and the Thunder have is created a culture where players want to be there. It’s not about the smaller market or the town that lacks the bright lights of New York or Los Angeles or Miami — the Thunder drafted players who fit with who they are and where they are. Guys like Harden who want to win and are happy to do it in OKC, they are not (as of yet) tempted by the bright lights and big city.

Harden will be a max player for the Thunder. Ibaka… that’s trickier.

  1. spellingcopfather - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    So pretty much in two years, OKC will feature the first all Max Deal starting line-up!!!

  2. aboogy123456 - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    This year looks like it will be the best chance for the thunder to win it all ,because they will have to lose something soon. The salary cap issues are real, and even if they keep harden, it will be hard to keep ibaka and sefolosha. Sefolosha is one of the best defenders in the league, so it looks like they will at least lose him.

    • loungefly74 - Aug 7, 2012 at 12:49 PM

      agree. something will have to give. also, OKC doesn’t have the deep pockets like the Lakers, Miami, etc…to absorb luxury taxes, etc…in that, youre right on the money saying the thunder need to win now.

      (in a perfect world)..only a handful of players should be making max $.

      • usavebob - Aug 7, 2012 at 2:30 PM

        OKC may have deeper pockets than you realize. There is a ton of oil and gas money.Time will tell.

      • loungefly74 - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:00 PM

        @usavebob…hmmmm…sorry man…not feelin it. if its true, then good for OKC. but just thinking only a few selected location are truly privey to bend on the lux tax…

      • skinsfanwill - Aug 8, 2012 at 9:14 AM

        Who on this earth would give Harden a max deal? Really? Brook Lopez, a max deal? What the heck was the labor agreement all about then? Teams are still offering subpar players too much money. And Harden showed his true self in the finals. He’s over-rated.

    • saint1997 - Aug 8, 2012 at 5:01 AM

      I still think they keep Ibaka. You can’t teach height and what Harden provides (scoring and ball handling) they can get cheaper elsewhere/already have. You have to keep Ibaka in this situation I think. Respond if you disagree

      • aboogy123456 - Aug 8, 2012 at 9:19 AM

        I disagree only if they are around the same price. Ibaka is no where near as good as harden, but I understand your point if Harden is close to max and Ibaka is about 6 million per year less than that. The thunder don’t have anybody that can create offense for others except for Harden. Durant, as much as every one loves him, doesn’t break down defenses as well. Ibaka is good but between him and kendrick perkins you have two big guys that have no post moves and don’t pass the ball well. The lack of an offensive inside presence has been a weakness for the thunder.

      • Kurt Helin - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:03 AM

        Some team is going to offer Ibaka max or near max dollars, not $6 million a year. I know other teams covet him.

    • jolink653 - Aug 8, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      Yeaa you know players who have a bad series when they make the Finals for the first time in their careers when they’re 22 years old must really be terrible players…Never mind what he did the rest of the season or in the playoffs…He’s the best sixth man on any team in the league and he’d be an instant starter and All-Star on any other team in the league…Over-rated? That’s really a stupid thing to say and I’m guessing the only time you’ve seen Harden is in the Finals and a playoff game here or there…Watch him for a full season and then come tell me he’s over-rated

  3. bougin89 - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I really don’t think Harden is worth a Max type deal. I agree with Kurt, someone will offer him a max deal but it doesn’t mean he’s worth it.

    • usavebob - Aug 7, 2012 at 4:31 PM

      How old is he? What has his trajectory been?How’s his attitude/ I think, maybe yes.

      • bougin89 - Aug 8, 2012 at 8:41 AM

        He’s young(22) and he’s coming off of a good year. That being said he looks out of place on the Olympic team and he’s coming off a finals in which he looked absolutely awful. Don’t get me wrong, I think Harden is a good player and somebody will offer him a max deal, I just don’t think “good” is worth a max contract.

      • jolink653 - Aug 8, 2012 at 10:32 AM

        You mean he can’t beat out Lebron, Kobe, Carmelo, KD, and Tyson Chandler for a starting spot on the Olympic team?? They don’t need him to contribute he’s there for depth purposes…And he had one bad series in the Finals (his first Finals at the age of 22)…He was lethal for every other playoff series from off the bench

      • bougin89 - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:36 AM

        jolink653….It’s obvious your very biased for James Harden but re-read my comment. I think Harden is a good player but good doesn’t mean he is worth a max contract even though somebody will offer him one. Harden played very well in the playoffs other than the finals and he made a difference no doubt but Durant and Westbrook were lethal, Harden was a great role player, don’t get that confused.

  4. dls612 - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    With a beard like that he belongs in Oklahoma

  5. asublimeday - Aug 7, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    If he makes it to restricted FA, expect a poison-pill deal from the Bulls.

  6. ufullpj - Aug 7, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    Harden is a great fit in OKC. Sam Presti reminds me a lot of Ted Thompson, the GB GM. Doesn’t say a lot, doesn’t reveal a lot, just goes out and executes his strategic plan, has everyone in the organization on the same page, and rewards existing players for their efforts. I don’t want to get into any of the “SonicsGate” crap, because I’m not referring to any of that, but from Presti on down, the Thunder are one of the best run NBA teams. And I think they’ve had a great model in the Spurs – a smart, classy organization in a similar market, with similar geographic restrictions, etc.

  7. lakerluver - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    Is Harden a max player? I’m not so sure. Obviously, it comes down to him or Serge. You can’t out score everybody, OKC. I think I would lean towards keeping Serge.

  8. southpaw77 - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    Harden, return to the state you played college ball at. Back to the state of Arizona and play for the Phoenix Suns.
    They need a shooting guard and PHX can trot out 3 left handers, Dragic, Harden and Beasely.

  9. paulhargis53 - Aug 8, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    lounge: I see you STILL don’t understand the ramifications for ALL teams with the NEW restrictions…….

    Don’t you think there is a reason LA is only handing out minimum deals, even when their bench is horrible?

    Outside of GB Packer fans, I ve never seen a fanbase with their collective heads buried in the sand as the Lakers.

    Wow, just wow.

    • bougin89 - Aug 9, 2012 at 11:04 AM

      So you are saying the Thunder can give out 3 max contracts(Durant, Westbrook, Harden) while keeping Ibaka at a near max deal? Perkins is locked up in a big deal(maybe they amnesty him which would mean they still pay him) then you have Sefolosha on an expiring contract, do you think teams value athletic defensive stoppers? Eric Maynor will also be a restricted free agent after next year. Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich aren’t expensive but they also aren’t cheap and are on the books at least through the next two years.

      What did lounge say that didn’t make sense to you? Do you know the NEW restrictions on ALL teams that you mention above?

      Yours truly,
      A die hard packer fan

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