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That glass there? It’s not just half full to Kendrick Perkins. It’s half full of the good stuff, if you know what I mean.
Speaking at a Thunder Fit Clinic event Wednesday, Perk told reporters that he has high hopes for the Thunder’s biggest remaining offseason question, even going as far to say Oklahoma City is “close” to locking up James Harden to an extension.
“We’re doing good. We’re making positive steps going forward,” Perk said about OKC’s offseason. “We got coach Brooks locked in. We got Serge locked in. And we’re getting close with James, and we’re getting close to keeping our unit together. And we’re still hungry.
“Once James gets here it’s nothing to be said,” he said when asked if he’d try and influence Harden. “He’ll see his family and that’s all he needs. So once he sees everybody’s faces that’s enough said.”
If you listen to the audio down below, you’ll hear the way Perk says it and it kind of sounds as if he’s just sort of shooting from the hip on it without any actual inside knowledge of the situation. But I can appreciate his sentiment, because I’m drinking the same stuff he is. I continue to believe that there’s no way the Thunder let a player of Harden’s caliber get away because of impending money concerns.
Though it could just be a false hope and optimism. Because OKC’s future issues are absolutely real and the organization hasn’t shied away from acknowledging them. It’s hard to believe they’d really let a player like Harden get away, especially when there’s a legitimate opportunity to be an NBA title contender for the next five or six years. But the league is a business and it’s real dollars people are spending.
What’s kind of ironic about Perk’s comments though is that if Harden is re-signed, it could signal the end of his time in Oklahoma City. One of the obvious plans for the Thunder to avoid major luxury tax issues is to use the amnesty provision on Perk in 2015 or 2016. Cut him and his nearly $9 million off the books and the Thunder could rescue themselves from a stiff penalty.
Perk though is the kind of guy that is almost unreasonably loyal to teammates and his team. He believes in brotherhood and the idea of someone jumping ship for money instead of staying part of something good probably doesn’t compute with him.
Again, what the Thunder face is well documented, but there’s a deadline looming. If Oklahoma City doesn’t extend Harden before Oct. 31, he becomes a restricted free agent and is all but guaranteed to receive a max offer sheet from someone. Which would mean the Thunder would be forced to match it, or watch their Sixth Man of the Year walk away.
Harden has made it especially clear that his preference is to remain in Oklahoma City and if that’s the case, his best chance is by signing an extension before Oct. 31. Because again: He’s getting max money on the open market. So if the Thunder have any hope of getting him signed for less than that, it would have to come via an extension.
That’s the move Serge Ibaka made in inking his four-year extension with OKC. By not allowing himself to test the open market, he likely took a little less money, but afforded himself the opportunity to remain with the Thunder. Harden obviously understands that’s his situation too.
Training camp opens for the Thunder Oct. 1. Perk and the rest of the team will have 30 days to tug on Harden’s heart and hope he sees OKC is the place to be. Otherwise, the questions will continue.
A few other notes from Perk:
- Perk on the West: “We are the Western Conference champs. At the end of the day we’re not chasing nobody except for the ring. We’re chasing Miami to get a championship. There’s no guarantee who’s going to be where. At the end of the day, we earned the Western Conference champs. We’re not chasing the Lakers. We’re chasing a championship.”
- His reaction on Dwight Howard going to the Lakers: “To be honest, I really didn’t have one.”
- He says Eric Maynor is cleared and is looking good: “I don’t know if y’all seen him but he’s more athletic. I seen him dunk the other day for the first time since I’ve been here.”
- Perk talked about all the big men added to the roster but made it clear: The line starts behind him. “We all teammates, but at the end of the day the center position over here is mine. And that’s the way we going to keep it.”
- Perk said he’s seen a lot of improvement out of Cole Aldrich, almost jumping at the opportunity to say so.
- He says he’s close to getting healthy and expects to be ready for opening night. “My groin is fine, my wrist I’m taking it day by day.” Perk said it was a three-month healing process and Thursday makes eight weeks.