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Harden reportedly “devastated” by trade. I can think of 25 million reasons he’ll get over it.

Oct 29, 2012, 12:51 PM EDT

James Harden AP

James Harden didn’t want to be traded from the Thunder. He said as much. He was having fun on a contending team that he had kind of grown up in the NBA on.

But business is business. Harden earned his right to get paid — the Thunder reportedly offered four years, $52 million (an offer that may have gone up to $53 million) and Harden rejected it. If he waited until the end of the season, he would get $60 million offers, and at age 23 the man wants to get paid. He’s getting slammed in OKC by people who would do a lot worse for $6 million, but that’s another story (just keep reading).

Oklahoma City’s owners have a bottom line and didn’t want to play the waiting game so the team traded Harden to Houston.

Harden was devastated by the trade, reports the Oklahoman.

James Harden boarded an airplane Sunday morning, bound for Houston. He was “devastated,” said someone who knows the Bearded One. Harden and his family both….

But (Thunder GM) Sam Presti told him. Presti’s lips now are sealed, but sources from both parties said that the Thunder appealed one final time to Harden on Friday. Upped its offer to $53 million over four years but told Harden if he didn’t take it, he would be traded to Houston.

Presti didn’t use that as a warning. He used it as a plea. He desperately wanted to keep Harden, but this was the last best offer.
And the Thunder gave Harden an hour to accept.

I imagine the trade was difficult for Harden. I also imagine he’s going to get over it pretty quickly.

The Thunder owners made a choice — they want a certain profitability with the team and that means keeping payroll at a certain point (especially with an escalating tax on payroll coming into play next season). Even if it cost them some wins and maybe more. That is their right.

Harden wanted to get paid, a max deal. That is his right.

So the sides part ways. Oklahoma City got some assets back but certainly got a little worse in the short term. (I have Thunder fans trying to tell me that Kevin Martin and Eric Maynor are going to make up for Sixth Man of the Year and Olympian, I don’t buy it. It’s a step back, not a big one but with the Lakers out there it could be magnified.)

Harden went from playing with friends on a contender to playing for a rebuilding team that likely isn’t playoff bound this season.

But Houston can offer a five-year, $78 million contract extension. That’s a max deal one year larger than Oklahoma City could offer (teams are only allowed one five-year max in the new CBA and OKC wisely gave its to Russell Westbrook). Harden is expected to sign it, maybe before the day is out.

Harden gets one more guaranteed year and $25 million more guaranteed dollars. At age 23. If you’re slamming him for this, you’re saying you would have turned down that money at his age? Sure you would have. There are no guarantees in life or the NBA, so if someone offers you $25 million more guaranteed you jump on it. Tom Ziller put it well at SB Nation so I’ll let him have the final word.

I joked Saturday night that there is very, very little you cannot buy with $24 million, and that though Harden will miss the Thunder, he’ll find a way to be okay. A few replied that one of the things you can’t buy with $24 million is an NBA championship. That’s true. But let’s not assume that a greater chance at an NBA championship is worth $24 million to everyone … or anyone. I don’t know much about Harden’s childhood, but I know I wouldn’t be turning down the opportunity for an extra $24 million at age 23 based on some principles, unless those principles had to do with good and evil.

We act as if Harden will never have another friend again after leaving Kevin Durant. We act as if taking the discount with OKC would have guaranteed Harden a championship. (We do this as most of us pick the Lakers to win the West.) Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, so you’d better take those guarantees when you get them. All of that extra money? That’s likely to be guaranteed. Take it, if you want. If friendship and a better chance at professional glory mean that much to you, sign the discounted deal. Don’t let social norms and middle-aged white men in the media guilt you into it, though. Do what you feel you should be doing.

  1. raidmagic - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    Well you can argue that he is up for 25 more million now but he made this happen for 6 million. That’s all they could pay. For 25 million, yeah I’d probably be ok too but for 6 million I stay there and try to win a championship.

    • herkulease - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Liar. There are guarantees in life.

      Its death, taxes…and liking the way I look at the Men’s Wearhouse.

      • raidmagic - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:25 PM

        So you would leave a contending team and all your “friends” for 1.5 million/yr when you are already making 13,250,000/yr? I wouldn’t. 1.5 at that point is nothing.

      • zerole00 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:27 PM

        It’s not just 1.5 million. Houston can offer him an extra year, Westbrook already owns OKC’s 5 year contract. Did you not reading the article? That extra year is worth $25 million.

      • danielcp0303 - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:50 PM

        And more than HALF of his game checks won’t be taxed at the state level

      • jackdaniels1 - Oct 29, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        Well Zerole, if you’re going to comment on a man’s reading comprehension I gotta call you out on you 1st grade grammar skills, or sorry maybe it’s ebonics…. I’d not ‘beze readin the articles!

      • badintent - Oct 30, 2012 at 12:34 AM

        @danielcp0303,
        You go it right !! The Texas no state income Taxes save him over $3.5 million on the $78 max deal !! That alone pays for a Ferrari, Penthouse, and a cattle ranch nex to the Big E (Elvin Hayes ). tax season will be here soon and with the new Odrama 1 percenters income taxes, I think your tax services will be in demand in the NBAPA.

  2. thomaskouns - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Maybe I’m being cynical, but this sounds like typical PR Spin so Harden doesn’t come off looking like a player whose priority was money over winning a championship.

    I don’t begrudge him for taking the money as it’s a business but this reaks of spin.

    Furthermore, his agent was well aware of the trade because Houston wouldn’t have traded for him if Harden didn’t first agree to financial terms so he clearly knew what was going on.

    But yeah, I’m sure he was ‘devastated.’ Pleaaassse……

  3. chawbacon14 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    You write ……….

    ” The Thunder owners made a choice — they want a certain profitability with the team and that means keeping payroll at a certain point (especially with an escalating tax on payroll coming into play next season). Even if it cost them some wins and maybe more. That is their right. ”

    This decision had nothing to do with ” profitability ” .

    The Thunder ownership group are all very wealthy men, who own very profitable business’s , and they did not buy this team to make a profit.

    This had everything to do with future flexibility and sustaining success in OKC. Bennett and Presti are following the Spur model, where Bennett was a part owner in the 1990’s. He knows how to make a small market team successful.

    And fans who expect owners to put their personal money into the team, are very much like teenage boys who expect their daddy to buy them a new car on their birthday.

    • abasketballthing - Oct 29, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      How do you know the Thunder can’t be sustainable with a high payroll? A top 3 team with a world famous superstar and two other marketable stars should be able to turn a profit in spite of a $100 million payroll. KD, RW and Harden all bring the Thunder more money than any player has ever brought the Spurs. The Thunder might be in a small market, but their ability to make money is better than that of the Spurs, and they should act accordingly(if they care about winning, of course).

      Also, the Harden trade could hurt the Thunder in the future, as Durant and Westbrook might have doubts about their team owners’ willingness to pay the price for a championship. They didn’t like the Green trade, but they didn’t get angry because realized it made their team better. In this case, there’s no way to argue the Thunder will be a better basketball team because of this trade. If KD and Russ don’t feel that their owners are committed to winning, they will not stay after their current contracts expire(at least Russell won’t)

  4. ebrownwareagle - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    Get your MONEY James Harden! Because its no love when ya done. Teams and majority of the fickle fans base in sports are loyal to themselves. Here’s a chance for you to be loyal to yourself and your BANK ACCOUNT! It’s not was no guarantee OKC will win the Title anyway with you! And know fan I ever met is willing to pay your bills, and they all laugh if ya go broke. With that being said, Get Your MONEY and Thumb thru the Check!

  5. florida727 - Oct 29, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    You rejected an offer for $53 MILLION and now you’re looking for sympathy because you’re “devastated”? Sympathy is in the dictionary… right between sh!t and syphilis.

    • dls612 - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:14 PM

      Agreed 100%!!! The fact of the matter is 53 mil over four years and plus u stay on a contending team for years to come! And it was rejected! So don’t have any regrets Ur getting what u wanted and that’s more money! The funny thing is now he’s getting a lot of pressure with that money! We’ll see how he handles it!

      • zerole00 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:25 PM

        It’s not just the 6 million difference guys, as Kurt says, he could get a 5 year deal with Houstin that OKC couldn’t offer (since Westbrook has theirs). That’s where the 25 million figure comes in.

  6. lakerfan4life - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Harden will flourish as a starter in Houston. More minutes, more stability, more regularity (and of course, more money).

    OKC just proved that they are not ready to be champions. Champions know and do what it takes to win. The most important thing to them is not clutching that purse so tight to make sure no money falls out.

    OKC had a chance to play for the win, NOW. All that talk about “future flexibility” and “long term outlook” is just comfort food so their fans still feel hope after the team falters. Name one actual championship team where the moves they made were not done to win the championship THAT YEAR!

    What a joke!

    • zerole00 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:26 PM

      You’re living in the past, even the Lakers are preparing for the escalating luxury tax – and they’re a huge market team. OKC’s medium to small.

  7. whodatnhollywood - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    James Harden did the right thing: get paid! He could have re-upped with OKC, then they could have traded him to Charlotte or Milwaukee or some place he really doesn’t want to be. Then what? Harden is from here, Southern Cal. OKC was lucky he wanted to be there!

    Business is business. As a professional, every place I’ve worked has been my client~meaning we’re not married. We’re just shacking. And when it’s over, no hard feelings. OKC was his client. Now, the new client, Houston, is willing to pay him more for his services. It’s the American way. Again, get paid.

    As for the fans and all this loyalty stuff: get a life! This is a player’s livelihood, not a hobby or favorite team. If the competitor to your job is willing to pay you millions more for the same job, you’d bounce in a NY minute! He can always call, text or Skype Durant, Westbrook and the fellas. Way to handle your business Harden. If anything, I lay the blame on the ownership. They don’t get a pass. Harden did what any employee/client would do~make that money, yo! Make that money!

  8. money2long - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    i’m actually happy lamb is in okc bcuz i don’t think i would’ve caught many of his games on tv as a rocket. he’s one of those rookies i wanted to follow. lamb being the scorer that he is, he gets to play against westbrook and durant, two of the nba’s most prolific scorers, in practice all the time now. that can only help him evolve by watching and competing against them. this move for lamb will really help his growth.

  9. bougin89 - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    I don’t blame Harden one bit for choosing to go to Houston for a max contract. If I were a Houston fan though I’d be worried about investing the 5 year max contract on a guy like Harden. Harden is a good NBA player but looked like he didn’t belong in both the finals and Olympics. On most playoff teams in the league he would be the third best player and some teams he’d be 4th or 5th. He’s not 5 years and $78 million good at least IMO.

    • mogogo1 - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      Hey, I like Harden…but I agree with you 100%. Today’s NBA is Bizarro World when it comes to figuring out who is “worth” a max contract. I suspect he’ll step into a starting role and be very good, but he’ll have to better than “very good” to be worth max money. He didn’t play particularly great in the Finals last year which was one of the first times he’d really been asked to step up his game.

      The irony is that I think OKC will have an incredibly hard time replacing what he gave them, but I’m not sure Houston is going to get everything they’re hoping for.

      • manchestermiracle - Oct 29, 2012 at 10:13 PM

        He’s all of 23 and was playing in his first finals. Cut him some slack already.

  10. mclayton31 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    It’s funny that people say they’re behind the lakers already when we haven’t even seen a full healthy lakers lineup play a full game yet.

  11. jrillah10 - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Can someone explain to me how Harden choked in the Finals? How does a 6th Man, non superstar, as everyone calls him, choke? For a guy who’s not a starter, yet averaged 30 plus minutes in the Finals, he seems legit to me. I’m not putting him on Durant’s level, but I remember a game 2 finals performance by Harden that kept them in the game. Then Durant and Westbrook struggled down the stretch with key layup misses that would have given them game 2.

    • chicagofan - Oct 29, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      I Iike Harden but he missed open 2 pointers and 3 pointers repeatedly and became a non threat from outside, after making those shots all season long. They Heat played off of him and it seemed to get into his head and he and OKC never recovered. His team counted on him for offensive punch off the bench and he did not produce when they most needed it=choke.

  12. 20dollardinners - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    I just don’t buy it. I think Harden is overrated. I say that as a Thunders fan.

    The Thunder got a prolific scorer in a contract year and 3 first round picks (1 already chosen). That’s a smokin’ hot deal.

    In 3 years we will look back and see the Thunder as all the wiser. They are so young that don’t need to win this year. Also with the same team, how can they expect a different result against and improved Miami team?

    • passerby23 - Oct 29, 2012 at 7:09 PM

      I’m with you. You forgot to mention Jeremy Lamb and that the kid is going to be a good player.

      Harden disappeared in the Finals and, if that should happen again, the Thunder would be in a real quandary. His trade value would plummet. Their future is secure now and, quite frankly, I think they’ll still be able to compete just fine provided Martin can stay healthy.

  13. chicagofan - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    DEVASTED?? For an extra 25 million devastate me as much as you can! If they told him they were considering a trade to Houston , he has no reason to be surprised when they did.

  14. staff2cj - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Dude choke in the nba finals..Now Houston is making him the face of the franchise? Harden IS NO FRANCHISE PLAYER, PERIOD.

    • zacksdad - Oct 29, 2012 at 6:20 PM

      And how many times did LeBron choke in the playoffs? I am not saying Harden is a Franchise Player, but you cannot use just one playoff series to state he is not a Franchise Player. By your reasoning LeBron is not a Franchise Player then.

  15. fashawks8 - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    It’s being devastated in your early 20’s that makes one’s heart Harden.

  16. fm31970 - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    Let’s see if I understand. Wade, James, and Bosh all sign for less than the max, and two years later win an NBA Championship. Harden won’t take less than a max deal, knows OKC won’t do that, and knows they will trade him instead of getting nothing in return after the season is over. Does Harden really think he has a shot at a title in Houston…ever? There is little to nothing around him, and it took OKC (guided by Presti’s moves) five years to become great. Does he really think Morey can do what Presti did?

    Maybe winning an NBA title isn’t as important to him, and maybe he feels Houston is a better place for him to work (it is a job after all). The pay is certainly better, but I’m sure most of us have realized it’s not always about the money. Being happy going to work everyday (and with Westbrook and Durant on your team, why wouldn’t you be?) counts for a lot, and I think Harden’s going to realize that this season.

    I don’t know if he made the right decision not taking $52M to stay with OKC, and we’ll probably never know. While I hope he’s happier in Houston, there is a long line of guys who turned down good money to stay with teams and left to take more money with other teams where it didn’t work out at all.

    • jrillah10 - Oct 29, 2012 at 4:56 PM

      Hey moron, all 3 of those guys took MAX DEALS after their rookie contract.

  17. thundersandpackers - Oct 29, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    look at LeBron. he gave up money to get a ring. endorsements will come if your team is winning, not losing and that can make up for the money that is lost. I rather stay in okc and be winning for the next ten years than go to Houston and play for a team that has been rebuilding for the last ten years.

  18. fanz928 - Oct 29, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    Haters hating on harden just like bosh bosh and harden, third option but they are just as important to their team

  19. sunsation3413 - Oct 29, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    Lebron, Wade, and Bosh all got their max contracts after their rookie deals. They could afford to take less after that. Lebron makes more in endorsements than basketball. he’ll never hurt for money. Cant fault Harden for going for the max money. He’s still young. He can enjoy those big bucks and start plotting the next super team he’s going to form when this contract is up.

  20. money2long - Oct 29, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    after all this, i’ve come to a few conclusions. one being that you can’t trust perkins reporting insight

    kp: “Once James gets here it’s nothing to be said,” Perkins said. “He’ll see his family and that’s all he needs. So once he sees everybody’s faces that’s enough said.”

    still, cant fault him for saying that because most likely everyone thought it at least.

  21. lakerluver - Oct 29, 2012 at 8:51 PM

    He should’ve taken the offer Okc put on the table, chased a ring for the next few seasons, and then become a free agent. In four years he’ll just be hitting his prime and could’ve gotten a max deal then. That’s if he had proven that he deserves it.

  22. metalhead65 - Oct 29, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    there comes a point where you have to say how much is enough? sure at 23 you are going to be tempted but how hard would it have been to take 53 million now for 4 more years of taking a chance on getting a ring then getting another huge contact at age 27? nobody can blame him for taking the money but just say it was about the money and stop with the devastated talk. they told you what was going to happen and you chose the money end of story. if the thunder do not win it all it will be because they were not good enough not because they do not have harden anymore. it is good to see a team take a stand and do what is right for the franchise for a change.now they do not have to deal with the issue of his contract all season and can focus on winning.

    • unxpexted1 - Oct 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM

      how can you say ” it is good to see a team take a stand and do what is right for the franchise” but not say its good that Harden did what is right for himself. If ownership really wanted him they could have signed him to 60 mill, and it may not of matched what houston can give him but that shows they were fully interested in keeping him. But instead they had a number in mind and played hardball with him. I dont fault the team, they are a business and did what they had to do, but Harden is his own business too, so a potential 25 million at 23, you have to take it. And i’m sure he was devasted, he probably wanted to get that same money in OKC, but people dont seem to be mentioning how they already gave their max deal to Ibaka. So again, if they REALLY wanted harden they could have kept them, but they didnt. It works out for both sides.

      • metalhead65 - Oct 30, 2012 at 8:09 AM

        and if he really wanted to stay he would have taken the teams offer and gone after the max contract in 4 years when this 53 million dollar deal ran out. I did not say it was bad for him to choose the money but I do not want to hear how devastated he is or how he did not want to leave. he had a choice and took the money good for him now he can have fun losing with the rockets while the thunder make the playoffs. I do not want to hear any regret talk or how the thunder disrespected him,they made a business decision just like he did now live with it.

  23. itsonlyaspeedbump - Oct 29, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    The more I read about this trade, the more I think that both parties come out good. I had called both groups greedy, but after all, I know I would take the extra 25 million in guaranteed money especially because an NBA championship is never guaranteed for anyone. Harden has no real reason to be loyal to a management team that could (and did) trade him at the drop of a hat, even less reason to stay loyal to a fan base that will call for him to be traded as soon as his skills diminish even a little.

    On the other hand, if OKC doesn’t trade him now, he becomes the dreaded “distraction” in the locker room for the media to tee-off on. Smart move by them to get a young player in Lamb and future draft picks. Actually it almost seems like they ripped off Houston. They got all that and in return gave up a player who at best is probably a Joe Johnson type—a very, very good player, but not a true “number 1.”

    • bougin89 - Oct 30, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      I. Couldn’t. Agree. More. Well said!

  24. unxpexted1 - Oct 30, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    I like James Harden’s game but he has the game that is good surrounded by superstars, but I dont think he is that Superstar that can make a bad team good. He is definitely a solid 2 option. He reminds me of(and I know its a stretch) but that scottie pippen kind of guy for a superstar. Harden does a lil of every thing, good passer, shooter, can drive, plays excellent D(see games against Kobe) and just has a pure all around basketball game. But i dont think that game works out as well being the number 1 guy. We’ll see, Houston has some money and maybe they will be able to pick up pieces in the years to come.

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