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Thunder GM says they are going to work to keep Harden

Aug 20, 2012, 10:20 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder James Harden durin Getty Images

When the Oklahoma City Thunder inked Serge Ibaka to a new four-year, $48 million deal fans of 29 other teams licked their lips and thought “now they can’t keep James Harden, too, can they? Maybe we can get him.”

Chill out. The Thunder plan to keep Harden, too. Just ask Thunder general manager Sam Presti, which is what the Associated Press did.

“We’re going to continue our conversations with James. We very much value him,” Presti said. “We want him to be a part of our organization moving forward. We’re excited that he’s a member of the Thunder and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us for years moving forward.”

The plan has always been to keep the core together, then fill in around then with whatever they can find affordably. If you don’t think that will work, I’d ask you to look toward Miami. And their ownership has said they are willing to pay the luxury tax to keep the core together. They are in a small market and can’t go Lakers with the payroll, but they can pay more than they have (and they can amnesty Kendrick Perkins to save money).

Ibaka took a little less than he might have gotten on the open market to stay with the Thunder, and they will likely ask Harden to do the same. If he balks at that, they will extend him a qualifying offer and as a restricted free agent next summer Harden will go out and some team (maybe multiple teams) will offer him a max contract. Then the Thunder ownership will have the call to make — at that point it’s beyond what the GM wants, when the checks get that big it’s an ownership call.

And despite what fans are dreaming elsewhere, I’d be shocked to see Harden in anything but a Thunder uniform when this is all done.

  1. timb12 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    The NBA needs to create a new max. One for players who actually deserve a max contract. I love Harden, but no way is he a max guy. But neither are a lot of guys that got max deals. This is inflation 101.

  2. alildusty - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I hope Harden stays loyal to Thunder. As much as I hate seeing team owners lowball and jerk players for what they are worth sometimes it’s good to take the highroad, give up a few million for the betterment of the team. ‘Chip or nothing baby!!!

    • mogogo1 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      Loyalty is a two-way street. If he lost a step they’d amnesty him in a heartbeat and let him learn about it on SportsCenter. That’s how the business works. He left college early without a degree, he doesn’t pull in endorsements like a LeBron, so his next contract is probably going to be the majority of his LIFETIME earnings. Given that reality, of course he isn’t going to pass up any extra money he could earn.

    • eventhorizon04 - Aug 20, 2012 at 9:01 PM

      “Stays loyal to the Thunder”

      Why does the burden fall on Harden to accept less money?

      It’s okay for Westbrook and Ibaka get max or near max deals, but Harden needs to take a huge paycut?

  3. papichulo55 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Giving up mllions is simply un-American! OKC is saying all the right things in an attempt to avoid devaluing Mr Hardens trade value. Sign and trade with Dallas, perhaps?

  4. kvanhorn87 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Sixers will take him.

  5. mogogo1 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    I echo the sentiments of timb12 above. Harden is a nice player, but it’s hard to use his name and “max contract” in the same sentence while keeping a straight face. Their larger goal than keeping their current core together is to bring a championship to OKC. Max money towards a guy who was single digits in scoring in three of the Finals games, shooting 6 for 31 in those games, is not a long-term smart move.

    • jolink653 - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      So you’re going to judge his value based on one series, a series in which a bunch of 22 and 21 year olds had never been and had a hard time dealing with the pressure? He had a terrible Finals, as did the rest of the Thunder, and they were the better team but they didn’t win…Take a look at Harden’s stats and watch some of his other games and then come back and tell me the guy doesn’t deserve a big contract, and let’s face it there are a ton of other guys much less deserving of a max deal who got one…I’m not saying he’s a top 10 player because he’s not but he’s only 23, he’s this good already and a really important piece of this team and he would be an All-Star and a starter on any other team in the NBA…If the Thunder don’t give him a max deal then someone will and they’ll lose him

      • timb12 - Aug 20, 2012 at 2:51 PM

        This is the problem, he’s not a max guy. Neither are most of the guys who get a max deal. So if you don’t give him a max deal you’re telling him that you don’t think he’s more valuable than a Brook Lopez. The whole system is flawed. Greg Ostertag is kicking himself he wasn’t born 15 years later, he would have gotten a max deal. This is like every guy telling a girl their beautiful to get them to put out when they’re average at best, you have to do it to compete but that doesn’t make it right.

  6. fanz928 - Aug 20, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    He’s a max guy playing six man and averaging 20+ and he paces the game and flow actually he’s better than ww

  7. donrwells3 - Aug 21, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Harden will get a max contract from someone. He was a face of the NBA last season. He is one of the few players that really deserves a great payday and a big contract.

    From the OKC perspective though, you already have the two-headed dragon of Westbrook and Durant on offense. Ibaka is a powerful defender. The type of defense you cannot let walk away from you. Especially if they amnesty Perkins, they will need his presence.

    With all that said, Harden is a great player. Really deserving of what he gets. I’d like to see him back in OKC or with the 76ers beside Andrew Bynum.

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