It’s pretty obvious what James Harden wants. He wants to stay in Oklahoma City.
“I don’t know. I can’t make that decision,” Harden told Marca.com. “I only focus on playing. I want to keep playing with the Thunder. I feel like home and the team is special. My teammates are like my family. We can do big things. We’ll see what happens.”
And really, it’s pretty obvious what the team wants. The Thunder want to keep James Harden.
Unfortunately there are those luxury tax complications standing in the way, making this whole thing much more difficult and challenging than it should be.
Harden also recently said, “I’m pretty, a hundred percent, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be in Oklahoma City.” But of course that quote came before Serge Ibaka signed his four-year, $48 million extension. That’s the complication I speak of, the thing that’s seemingly made Harden’s extension go from a slam dunk sure thing to somewhat of a question mark.
Most see Harden as a likely max extension kind of player, especially if he were to hit the market next summer as a restricted free agent. With players like Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert landing max deals, surely the reigning Sixth Man of the Year would get one too.
The way Harden talks, it seems as if he’s got a number he’s told his agent he wants to hit and if it happens, it happens. He’s made it especially clear that his preference is the Thunder and that his eye isn’t wandering to options in restricted free agency. But it’s just a matter of what OKC’s ownership is willing to spend.
The indication is that the Thunder will open the checkbook for Harden and cross the luxury tax bridge when they get there. By either just paying it, trying to wiggle around it with the amnesty clause or by making a deal.
But the ball is in the Thunder’s court. Harden has put his cards on the table. The cat is out of the bag. The insert another cliche here to hammer home a point that’s been made already. This negotiation with Harden isn’t about trying to convince him to stay. That much is done. It’s just about hitting that number.