Harden: Money was the deciding factor in leaving OKC

In an interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, James Harden talked honestly about his decision to turn down the Thunder’s four-year, $55 million extension offer, which set off the team trading him to Houston.

“I felt like I already made a sacrifice coming off the bench and doing whatever it takes to help the team, and they weren’t willing to help me,” Harden said.

Quick note: The offer the Thunder made, while not the max, would’ve made him the highest paid sixth man in NBA history.

Harden was asked if he thought he’d be in Oklahoma City forever.

“Yeah, I did,” he said. “I thought we were going to be together forever. Russell Westbrook. James Harden. Kevin Durant.”

Then asked if money wasn’t a factor, would he still be with the Thunder?

“Definitely,” he said. “Definitely. No question.”

Let me add this though, something Harden said after the Thunder lost in the Finals:

“This team is like a family,” Harden said. “Like, we’re really brothers. We hang out most of the time every single day. You won’t find any other team like this. I love it here … This is something special here. A dynasty is being built here. So we’re winning, we’re having fun and we’re brothers. The other stuff, you can’t buy it.”

Apparently, you could for $5 million more.

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2014-04-16 17:25:17
Mr_F TheresABabyFaceUnderMyBeard  Washington's explanation also could be more tied to the fact they had just brought in two bloated contracts that summer anyway, and another max guy in anticipation of Wall's upcoming contract would've been insane. There were very few teams in the league that didn't project him as a star.
2014-04-26 01:13:27
And now with the Salary Cap increasing $5 + mil next year, the tax bill hit would have really only been severe for this season and then going down next year. Plus, we would have had Harden in the playoffs last year. The key is the Thunder panicked and traded him one year too soon (same crap would have been available at the deadline the next season or sign and trade after). If we arent going to play Lamb and Adams, then we basically traded Harden for nothing!...dumb, shortsighted...cheap!!!
2014-04-16 15:29:56
Sooooo, irreconcilable differences, right?  Annulment or divorce?
Julius F Wrek
2014-04-16 15:39:24
Rob Pelinka'd.
TempBoy Brandon
2014-04-16 15:42:22
Thanks for the salt, James. That wound was healing up all nicely too. Need to rub some more Kiwi ointment on it again.
King of Carrot Flowers the Third
2014-04-16 15:43:42
King of Carrot Flowers the Third
2014-04-16 15:44:43
d21 miss u 2 bb
2014-04-16 15:45:06
Glad for him he gets the money and gets to be the man, but I find it hard to believe that money was the "only thing"
2014-04-16 15:46:51
Hi guys!
King of Carrot Flowers the Third
2014-04-16 15:48:19
d21 King of Carrot Flowers the Third :'(
2014-04-16 15:51:40
He named KD last because he was the guy taking all the spotlight from him/ sarc
Turtles Against Brooks Faction
2014-04-16 15:53:37
eallen7  True or False. This will this spawn a dozen podcasts that this trade gets brought up by Simmons. False, he was going to bring it up anyway.
Royce Young
2014-04-16 15:58:02
Julius F Wrek    Any guesses as to why he's not KD's agent anymore?
Old Man Game
2014-04-16 16:32:45
Yep. Them's the breaks. Oh well.
2014-04-16 16:39:32
That was always obvious. Just didn't want to pay, guess the dynasty wasn't worth it to Clay.
2014-04-16 16:47:31
I think what Harden says in this interview is real, and somewhat reasonable. Anybody who says they honestly didn't think he was a star caliber player at the point he left is in denial, and he was truly making a big sacrifice playing 6th man for us. There weren't many execs around the league who would've even thought twice about making him one of the faces of their franchise, even though some of us like to act like "we didn't know if he'd be successful in a starting role or as the man".
2014-04-16 16:47:44
Really, he traded all the things he loved about OKC for 5mil more? 60 Million/55 Million, what's the difference when you got that much? But I guess a lot considering 5 million in my pocket would be awesome!!!!!
2014-04-16 16:49:09
Tvaddic  I think even in these comments, there's a bit of a respect/"I deserve it" thing going on.  Yes he wanted the max*, but it's the money and the prestige of that, since he was already sacrificing being a starter and stats (by being a 3rd option instead of a first). Just my 2 cents. *and he was worth it
2014-04-16 16:51:54
jameseo  It's only $5 mil if you assume OKC would have signed/matched a max offer the next summer.  Once he knew it was sign or be traded to Houston, though, he knew he could get that 5th year and the $20+ mil that came with it.
2014-04-16 17:03:56
I think people are looking at this far too black and white, but not able to step out of their OKC fanhood long enough to take it for what it is. We all see what happened with the Kevin Love situation, and commiserate with the guy. Superstar giving everything he's got for a club that returns the favor by not giving him the best possible contract they can give him. Like Harden mentioned, it was a big sacrifice for a player of his caliber to swallow his ego, come off the bench, and play his butt off (almost) every night.  That's one strike. Then there was the signing of Serge first, which I'm sure didn't exactly make him feel like the big priority to the club that he was made to feel he would be, and deserved to be. Semi-strike two. If the organization then comes to him and offers him the max, strike two's now a moot point, and I'm sure it doesn't bother him and is seen as part of the plan. But instead, despite the market being set at a max contract (Phoenix had already stated they intended to offer him the max when they lost Gordon), we underbid on him. Strikes two and three. I'm sure he felt that he was probably at the minimum close to on par with Russ as far as star power and impact on the team, and a max contract would have been assuring that we were committed to him long term, and he probably wouldn't be stuck in a 6th man role for life. Instead, we made moves that I can completely understand making him feel like he'd gone from option number 2a/b, all the way down to a definitive option number 4. It's "just" 5 million dollars, but I think that 5 million dollars spoke many more volumes to him and his agent than just how rich he would be.
2014-04-16 17:04:52
People don't realize how handicapped the Thunder would have been if he had just accepted the 55 mil offer, let alone if the Thunder had offered 60. The Thunder were already going to take a fairly large cap hit with the 55 mil offer. They were reaching beyond their means because Harden was that talented.  I also think it is very easy for James to sit back and say this stuff now after being the guy in Houston for the past two seasons. He wanted to go and be the guy somewhere.
2014-04-16 17:19:39
TheresABabyFaceUnderMyBeard  I agree with this to a point, but he wasn't a consensus star while here. Otherwise you can't explain Washington and Golden State essentially passing on Harden when they had a chance at him. (He definitely was getting a max offer from at least 2-3 teams, though.)
2014-04-16 17:23:31
KevinEzerski  People forget the caveat that Perkins could have been waived or traded for nothing. And before we come back with the "but who plays center then" argument, the following centers were free agents that summer, and signed deals that would have put us equal to, or less than the equivalent of signing Harden to 55 mil+keeping Perk instead of 60+no Perk and registered higher PER's than Perk the following year. for comparison- Perk- PER- 6.2 Now: Chris Anderson-17.4 Marcus Camby- 8.6 Aaron Gray- 9.0 Hamed Haddidi- 7.4/11.2 Spencer Hawes- 16.0 Brendan Haywood- 8.7 Jordan Hill- 18.5 Ryan Hollins- 11.3 Robin Lopez- 18.9 Ian Mahinmi- 10.6 Jermaine O'Neal- 16.7 Ronny Turiaf- 9.4
Nicky Scarfo
2014-04-16 18:04:36
Signing Ibaka before Harden was the big mistake. If Presti could do it all over again, he wouldn't amnesty Perk, get Harden deal done first, then sign Ibaka. With OKC's cap situation $55 Mil wasn't bad offer, but you have to understand what He still would be sacrificing to stay in OKC. The funny things is, the team he is on is almost as good as us now. Houston is a fiesty group and with a few more pieces they can win the West in a few years. Harden made the right choice period!
Fuzzy Logic
2014-04-16 18:13:58
Is it time for an intervention? Because you're obviously on something. Houston isn't getting to the Finals this year and they aren't getting any better in the coming years. Howard's not getting any younger and his back isn't going to get any better. He'll only decline. Lin and Asik have Peaked. Harden's game could improve but he's not shown that he has the work ethic to go to another level. Unless they have significant roster change they are absolutely not surpassing us. Harden sold out a potential dynasty for perpetual mediocrity... period.
Fuzzy Logic
2014-04-16 18:16:35
Player of his caliber? His caliber was considerably lower at the time.
2014-04-16 18:22:12
maybe if Brooks started him he would still be here..
Lambo Serge the III
2014-04-16 18:22:56
Fuzzy Logic  but if Lebron signed with Houston....
2014-04-16 18:23:00
I'm not salty about this. I wish harden was still on this team, it might go down as one of the best ever if he was. We asked him to sacrifice too much. I'm glad he's being candid about money being the deciding factor. If someone offered you 55 million when you knew you could get 80 million....  I mean come on
2014-04-16 18:52:37
Fuzzy Logic  If you're only judging on his finals performance, yes. Otherwise, most of his production hasn't changed much when you look at it in light of his increased minutes and usage. He's obviously gotten better, but the great majority of the people questioning the level of player he was were either on this board or news reporters thirsting for an argument. In general, he was regarded as one of the next big things at that point.
2014-04-16 18:54:30
Nicky Scarfo  I don't necessarily think he made the right decision, but I certainly can understand his logic. I can't say what I would have done in his shoes, because as not tough as being offered 55 million bucks sounds, he was put in a pretty tough spot.
Royce Young
2014-04-16 19:36:29
TheresABabyFaceUnderMyBeard KevinEzerski   What people REALLY forget is that amnestying Perkins at the time was completely unrelated to Harden's deal. Because Harden was under contract for one more season under his rookie deal. So amnestying Perk would've helped, but not until the summer of 2013.
2014-04-16 19:54:50
Royce Young TheresABabyFaceUnderMyBeard KevinEzerski  which would be even more reason to have gone ahead and given him the max deal. Not only would you have the 2012 crop of free agents to choose from if Perk needed to be replaced, now you have the 2012 draft class (which was awful but thats hindsight), 2013 free agent class, any possible trades, and the 2013 draft class (which I don't really count because what championship team starts a rookie).  Yes, I recognize that we could've given Harden a max, he underperformed, we didn't win a championship, and he loses trade value and becomes a bad contract instantly and we screwed up. However, at 4/60, he's no worse a contract than 4/55. To me, the 5 million doesn't seem like a monetary hurdle, as much as it is a message that we didn't view him as a face of the franchise player.  There's nothing wrong with that either. Maybe in our organization's eyes he wasn't. But the "Harden was being greedy" line that gets thrown around all over the board is like saying that Seth Curry is the greatest shooter of all time because he's 100% from 3 on the season. It makes sense alone, but in context there's a lot more to it. Point is, if we felt like offering 4/60, it would have been barely any more complicated than offering 4/55.
2014-04-16 20:13:32
Of course it was a factor.
2014-04-16 21:02:54
Yeah we all kinda knew that when he turned down the $55 million.
2014-04-16 21:03:01
who wouldn't have done what harden did? change team and get a starting role vs bench role and $20+ million more. i would, you would, everyone  would
2014-04-16 23:59:44
"Apparently, you could for $5 million more." Look bro, you need to not be so mad.
2014-04-17 02:20:47
joker10101  I am actually shocked. I have ayways thought it was because Presti caught Harden by surprise by the 1 hour ultimatum he gave Hardem which was totally stupid, and unfair to Harden, but this is actually shocking that Harden admits he left us because we didn't give him an extra 1.25 million per year.
2014-04-17 02:23:35
Jeremy2   At the time Harden did not even think about getting the extra year, and extra money on his contract. He turned us down because we did not offer the max we could which was a 4 year 60 million contract.
2014-04-17 02:24:48
Nicky Scarfo  If Presti could do it over we would have both Ibaka, and Harden.
2014-04-17 08:41:26
d21  King of Carrot Flowers the Third Seen a post on reddit, this guy is actually in the class photo of Columbine with the shooters..
2014-04-17 11:47:11
What do you mean 5 million more?! You mean 5 million PLUS 20 million guaranteed for the 5th year
2014-04-17 11:47:54
MostJadedGamer Jeremy2  That and his agent told him if he went to another team he'll get 20 million more with an extra year.
2014-04-17 11:51:35
"Apparently, you could for $5 million more." Is this for Harden or for the Thunder Front Office? It goes both ways.
2014-04-17 11:52:37
MostJadedGamer joker10101  So if its just 5M more, the Thunder could have given it to him. It goes both ways. If players can sacrifice, teams can sacrifice especially if the team is worth $600M ++.
2014-04-17 13:21:37
staticcc  4 year 60 million was the max we could offer. Only 1 player can have the 5th year, and Durant already had that.
2014-04-17 13:22:29
staticcc MostJadedGamer joker10101  except it would have more then 5 million of the thunder because of the luxury tax penalty.
2014-04-19 11:54:20
I'm sure you guys already saw this, but Harden might be the worst defender in the league...just embarrassing. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2033788-heres-11-minutes-of-james-harden-playing-terrible-awful-defense
2014-04-20 22:08:31
staticcc  5 million for the Thunder Front Office actually meant a quite a bit more, considering the luxury tax.
2014-04-24 14:54:17
The Thunder were asking a top 10 player in the league to come off the bench AND take less money. That really was ridiculous. How anyone could fault Harden for leaving is dumb. I understand that Royce is a Thunder employee, but that take is ridiculous. The only folks that do not think the Thunder made a mistake letting him go are the local OKC media. Everyone else knows it was ridiculous. Try to be objective. The Thunder have made millions and millions in profits and in the increase in the value of the franchise so to say it was a financial decision is ridiculous.
2014-05-30 07:46:30
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