Bruce Bowen on the West: “There’s a team out West called the Oklahoma City Thunder. Those young boys, it seems like each and every year they get better… I don’t think you can rule them out with their starters, their bench. You look at Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka down low, I think they will be aggressive and challenge Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Then you look at James Harden coming off the bench, who’s going to matchup with him? It’s not even a question with Steve Nash and Russell Westbrook. So now it leaves Kobe and Kevin Durant…. I’m not sold on this new Lakers team because it takes time to gel.”
Kurt Helin of PBT on the West: “Really, we’re not going to be able to judge the Lakers vs. Thunder until what we see the Lakers are playing like in March. Remember, it took the Heat more than a season to win with their superstars and the idea it could take a couple years for the Lakers is very possible (even if they get by the Thunder there will be the Heat to contend with). But we should speculate about it now.”
Berry Tramel: “Still, no matter how much Harden wants to be here, he’s not going to sign for $8 million a year. And even with sacrifice, Bennett has to decide if his franchise, without major money coming from a local television contract, can approach $100 million in payroll costs. If the Thunder signs Harden, it will be a major step of faith for Bennett and his fellow owners. Before signing Ibaka, the Thunder had two mountains to climb. Now that OKC has signed Ibaka, two mountains remain.”
HoopsHype: “Serge Ibaka’s new deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder is for $49 million guaranteed and could go up to $51.5 million if certain individual and team goals are met, HoopsHype has learned. Ibaka will make at least $12.25 million each of the four years of his contract.”
Matt Moore of PBT: “It’s true that ownership always talks big about spending and actually doing it is another matter. It’s true that management always says it’s going to keep players until it doesn’t get done. And it wouldn’t shock anyone for the Thunder to ship Harden out in a trade suddenly. After all, there were whispers of him in talks around the trade deadline and at the draft. It’s unlikely. But it’s possible. No one’s going to be surprised if Harden’s not with the Thunder next year. But you shouldn’t be shocked if he is, either.”
Thunderstruck premiered in OKC last night. Don’t worry, I’ll have a review of it at some point.
Mike Prada of SB Nation on why it’s more likely Harden stays now: “That’s perfect for Sam Presti, of course. The Oklahoma City Thunder GM just needs to sell Harden on the idea that winning provides the kind of value that a couple extra million on his new contract can’t make up in another situation. He can kill two birds with one stone, keeping his championship-contending nucleus together while lowering his team’s luxury-tax bill. All he has to do is tell Harden to look around and see what everyone else is doing. Suddenly, that $11-million-per-year contract offer looks much more attractive. It doesn’t matter how many dollars are at stake. Peer pressure is still peer pressure, and nobody knows this better than Presti. He’s been setting this sequence up for a while and, now, only one more domino has to fall for him to keep his team together for years to come.”
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