Will Finances Force Thunder’s Hand With Harden?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This isn’t about scare tactics or some sort of negotiating ploy on the part of the Thunder or anyone else.

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s quandary regarding reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is real. They have to figure out how to keep him in the fold when he’s set to cash in with a new contract while the franchise is already somewhat strapped due to big deals it handed out to its other young stars (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka).

The luxury tax is a very real factor for some teams. If you paid attention during the first five minutes of Junior Achievement in middle school, you’d know that the numbers simply do not add up in favor of the team trying to keep a handful of young stars in their primes with generous contracts. The Thunder — a proud, small-market titan — happen to be one of those teams.

And there is a growing concern in Oklahoma City that Harden could end up being a casualty of the financial dilemma the Thunder will face at the end of the 2012-13 season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti addressed the topic Monday, courtesy of Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman:

So, what about Harden?

“James is somebody we value,” Presti said Monday afternoon. “We think he’s an important part to what we’re trying to do with our team and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us.”

No doubt about that. Harden is super talented, a rare combination of shooter, slasher and distributor. His offensive skills provide an amazing complement to those of Durant and Westbrook.

“By the same token, we’ve been very upfront and transparent with everybody that we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement,” the Thunder general manager continued. “I know we’d love to have him here. I think James would like to be here as well. But at the end of the day … you have to find a way to make it work for everybody.”

Notice those qualifiers in there?

By the same token?

But?

You don’t have to read far between the lines to realize the reality: Striking a deal with Harden is going to be like walking uphill on an icy sidewalk.

Darn near impossible.

The word “impossible” alone stirs the sort of fear that isn’t a part of this equation right now. There is plenty of time for the Thunder to work out an extension with Harden before the Oct. 31 deadline. If not, Harden becomes a restricted free agent and goes into the mix next summer. You just know if that happens some team will throw a huge offer at him and dare the Thunder to match it, knowing full well the luxury-tax ramifications that could hamper OKC going forward.

If a sacrifice must be made, the sort of hard choice that can alter the fate of a franchise, Presti is one general manager prepared to enter into that realm of the business as well.

As Carlson points out, there’s a blueprint for operating this way, one that Presti learned from his mentors in San Antonio:

In 2003, Stephen Jackson became a darling in San Antonio. He endeared himself to Spurs fans by making big shot after big shot in the playoffs, capped with several 3-pointers down the stretch in the championship-clinching game of the Finals.

With Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili already on the roster, the Spurs offered Jackson a three-year, $10 million deal after the season.

He walked.

Fans freaked.

What the Spurs did was not popular, but because they are a small-market franchise, they have made a commitment to be frugal about finances. That’s one of the reasons they’ve been able to maintain success over several decades. Short-term sacrifices (and PR hits) for long-term stability.

You’d better believe Presti will do the same with the Thunder.

That reality might be starting to dawn on Thunder fans, but Monday afternoon, it seemed to have already set in with those close to the situation. As soon as the subject of Harden’s contract arose, Ibaka and Thunder coach Scott Brooks went completely and totally stone faced.

Thunder fans everywhere will be stone-faced every time Harden’s name comes up between now and Oct. 31. Until there is a resolution to this issue, what else is there?

80 Comments

  1. moe says:

    LAL will not go any where so ppl aloow the hype talks okc are still the best in the west

  2. LA-2013-Champion says:

    Go to LA and heat fans will surely have a heart attack..

  3. Pgulinp says:

    they already pick ibaka over him so i guess it’s over he will be traded or free agent i don’t know who will take him, probably Dallas will try , or Clippers ( they try to land every good player on market ) , they can go in some 3,4 teams trade but i belive that okc won’t hold him…

  4. HeatFan says:

    Minnesota would be a better fit? He could start alongside KLove and Rubio, form their trio there. OKC basically chose Ibaka over him. Its just a matter of time before he realize that friendship dont end when you change teams. He is better off there in Minni.. Love looking for a star partner, James being a starter, Rubio on the fold. That would be ok. Not so awesome though,

  5. mrsullivan says:

    OKC is a very talented team, but I foresee problems. One, the refs may be getting tired of being made a fool of because of Harden’s flops and going chest up with other players (only to flop). OKC sees themselves as elite, will the hunger remain, or will they start believing too much and slip just a little bit? Last year they spoke loud about how they weren’t Denver before they played (and beat my Lakers), if you forgot that bit of arrogance, Denver won’t. And then you got the revamped Lakers. I see problems for this team.

  6. Bob says:

    Perkins as a Howard stopper? Didn’t any of you watch the last game OKC played Orlando?

  7. caloyski says:

    Any team will be willing to pay more than US $12M for HARDEN’s services- if OKC doesn’t match this then they are gone

  8. irf says:

    lakers should amnesty kobe and sign harden next season.. kobe can have his last shot this season, but if he doesn’t win this year he probably won’t win it 2 years from now, with 1 more year on his shoulder and nashs too, harden is better long run option, this may seem as a shock, as he is one of the best players ever played the game, but on end of a day this is just business..

  9. caloyski says:

    OKC don’t stand a chance to win the crown if they let go of HARDEN

  10. Linsanity says:

    Sent him to Rockets!

  11. Pedro says:

    Come season’s end and he’s gone. His is young and can only see the $$$. More playing time and more money is too much for the Thunder to match.

  12. Bob says:

    “People outside, fans, media, of course they are going to say [the Lakers are the favorites] because on paper they have the best lineup in the league. But you still got to play the games. We respect everybody. We are going to go through the league respecting everybody as well.We already view ourselves as an elite team, but we have to prove it again. Last year is over with.” -Kevin Durant-

  13. Bob says:

    OKC will be back in the Finals. It will be a sweet revenge. As for the Lakers, as what KD said ” You still have to play games.” 2012 Lakers is the repeat of 2004 Lakers, They just choked..

  14. ken says:

    what trade him to the heat.they dont have cap space.with the new bargarning agreement gets tighter next year its going to be hard for the heat to keep what they have.The suns can pay him what he wants hie will be home with family he will be there franchise player not secound fiddle to no one.the also have the draft picks to build around him

  15. david k says:

    They will keep harden. If they can but remember they drafted guys like perry jones the 3rd so stay tuned depending on how he develops that will make or break their decision there are other ways to creats cap space like getting rid of some other players like thabo possibly and even nick collison but the only player whos contract would free up enough room yet not change their style of play is perkins harden or kp didnt have a good showing in the nba finals they do need kp to guard howard tho. remember they did get thabeet as a back up at center. After next year perry jones the 3rd could very well be their 6th man if harden leaves. they also have back up pgs that are ready to get real minutes like reggie jackson and their other back up pg. They have movable players.

  16. okc fan says:

    just trade harden and perkins!!! maybe ro bynum?

  17. kenny says:

    I say get rid of harden him and the reffs are the reason why the Thunder lost in the Finals keep Perkins get a player like Harden but not as big of a name and you will be just like last year and maybe the reffs won’t screw you out of the titile naxt year

  18. Chris says:

    Collison
    Mayo
    Harden
    Nowitzki
    + X

  19. Wolfman NZ says:

    They will offer HARDEN MAX EXTENSION. They will amnesty Perkins next offseason. this is why the team brought in HASHEEM THABEET!! they signed him to a min contract to let him learn to play post d from Perk and offence from Ibaka this year, then he will become the starting 5 the following. cheap contract to balance the books. all he needs to do is fill the paint, crash the boards and provide screens because Perk does not offer much more.

  20. trade harden says:

    or okc can trade james harden and aquire a player of the same caliber such as monta ellis, tyreke evans, kevin martin, etc so that they don’t have to worry about harden walking away and at the same time replace his presence with that of an equal.

  21. Dondi says:

    We would hate to see him leave.

  22. Jeff says:

    Harden is not gonna “back up the Mamba” in LA. Kobe plays about 38min/game.
    Also, the LAKERS are not the Best in the West. Do you remember Payton and Malone joining them?
    They’re formidable, yes, but let’s just wait and see what injuries pop up during the season.

    • oooohhh!! says:

      THEY WON THE WEST!!!

    • GR3ddy says:

      Um, Malone and Payton were old as. Having D12 and Nash is not the same. Why do you even bother making that comparison? Kobe doesn’t need to play 38mins anymore due to the addition of Nash and D12 plus a better bench than last season.

  23. Laker Nation says:

    Welcome to the Lakers Steve and Dwight!

    Big 5

    Pg: Steve Nash

    Sg: Kobe Bryant

    Sf: Metta World Peace

    Pf: Pau Gasol

    C: Dwight Howard

    Bench: Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks, and Earl Clark

    2012-2014 NBA CHAMPIONS #BeatTheHEAT

  24. HeatFan says:

    If i were OKC, i would trade harden for some depth, and try to somehow keep Perk.. If i were Harden, i would go to suns where he have a chance of becomming a star

  25. max says:

    yall forgetting we drafted perry jones…

  26. NY fan says:

    I see let harden go, Harden played bad in the finals , even though I think he is a very good player, the heat paid off the ref and harden to make heat win. OKC is way better than the heat and also a lot of obvious calls that should have been thunder ball went to the heat.

    How come when Anthony of the knicks won the jump ball and they gave him only 1 second to shoot were as when there was 1 sec left on shot clock and called jump ball and the heat won it, they gave the heat full shot clock which contradicts the call they made against anthony

  27. B-Ball says:

    of course this is a topic to discuss. I was discussing it when OKC went down to the Heat. I told my friends it was either Ibaka or Harden. I knew OKC would have a problem keeping those young guns….When OKC signed Ibaka I knew it wasn’t looking good for Harden. It may be a little easier on OKC becuase Harden had a bad finals but in the long run OKC will miss Harden….he is a great 6th man. OKC like other big market teams may not be able to afford the luxury tax. Players say wearly on it’s not about the money and some may actually mean it but when those $$$$$$ are in the eyes the money is hard to resist. When a team offers Harden a lot of money I am pretty sure he will be out.

  28. Dr. Silicon says:

    We can trade Harden for more depth which I think we need. We can trade/amni Perk for more depth/cap space. We can keep Harden and go into the tax. Personally I think we will be OK in any scenario. Ibaka could be a great center if he can learn not to bite on pump fakes. I’m not that concerned about LA because odds are someone is going to be dealing with injury and DH coming off of back surgery can hurt if it shakes his confidence even the slightest. I could be wrong but LA will have more talent but OKC will out work them if it comes down to it.

  29. Jeff says:

    Harden to Phoenix 2013!!!! Book It

  30. Rich says:

    In order to get to stay with OKC, Soften, I mean Harden, first needs to take off that ridiculous beard. This kid clearly has identity crisis and he thinks he looks cool and original with the beard. Truty is he looks old, ugly and annoying. Second, he has to stop flopping. His team mates Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are great players and they mix it up with other team’s best without resorting to acting/flopping. Lastly, don’t believe him for one second that he would take less money to stay with the Thunder, as he would bolt out as fast as he can once another team offers him more money.

    • No easy answer says:

      Exactly! Players as young as Harden are going to chase the most lucrative contact 10 out of 10 times. Use common sense. He can get a nice 5 – 6 year contract and know he’s set for life, or he can take a huge pay cut and hope he never gets injured and that he’ll get a juicy contract later, when he’s older. He’s also got an agent that wants more, not less money. He’ll also have GM’s from other franchises swooning him with playing time and a chance to be “The Man.” If OKC can’t clear space for him, he’s chuckin’ deuces.

  31. Chase says:

    Im still wondering why they gave KP such a large contract. And not only that, but why don’t small market teams make an effort to balance out the cap space? I understand paying your superstars but guys like Ibaka and harden shouldn’t be commanding nearly $50 million deals yet. That’s just my opinion but athletes get paid for a lot more than what they have already accomplished which is odd in my opinion as well.

    • Rich says:

      For a long time, OKC had been making the best moves, best deals drafting great players. Perkins deal was the only bad move they’ve done, and it was the worst that they could’ve done.

  32. zack says:

    there is no way the lakers can afford harden. the suns have money almost 40 mil that they were offering gordon. and harden has already spoke of an interest in phoenix because he has many ties to phoenix as welll as his mom living here.

  33. Belizeboy says:

    Harden already stated he would do what it takes to stay on that team even it it meant taking a lot less. One way or another they will find a way to keep him, but he won’t walk away from the team.

    • B-Ball says:

      He is gonna have too. If he stays in OKC he will most likely be making a little more then a rookies salary…

    • No easy answer says:

      Belizeboy wake up. He may take 1 or 2 million less. But if it’s more, he’s gonna walk. Of course he’s going to say he wants to stay at all costs, until those costs are coming out of his wallet. Let’s see what happens when he’s offered contracts 2 to 3 times larger than what OKC can offer.

      • oooohhh!! says:

        EXACTLY…I really hope he does stay and the Thunder keep being competitive!! however, reality is if he is not offered at least a competitive amount…he WILL walk!!

  34. chris says:

    there is a reason as to why okc signed so many bigs they knew wht they wud do ever since the drafted PJ3 perkins is out nd harden is in cole aldrich daniel orton hasheem thabeet, nick collison , and ibaka are enough for okc yu guys forget that okc never had a problem with the bigs of other teams nuttin changed instead the lal got older and a slower pg okc is waltzing to the finals nd this time we will win

  35. lbj says:

    we can welcome harden in exchange of haslem,anthony and future round picks. harden wants to get a ring so he will play with the king “LeBron”

    PG: Wade
    SG: Allen
    SF: Harden
    PF: James
    C: Bosh

    6th man: Battier
    Strong Reserve: Chalmers,Cole,Miller,Lewis and Juwan Howard

    back to back championship..

  36. lbj says:

    we can welcome harden in exchange of haslem,anthony and future round picks. harden wants to get a ring so he will play with the king “LeBron”

    PG: Wade
    SG: Allen
    SF: Harden
    PF: James
    C: Bosh

    6th man: Battier
    Strong Reserve: Chalmers,Cole,Miller,Lewis and Juwan Howard

    back to back championship.

  37. somethingclever says:

    Harden said he wants to goto LA when he is a free agent. I say he signs a 1 year contract with the hornets or another irrelevant team until next year, then comes and backs up the mamba from the bench

  38. l.a lakers says:

    SMH IF HE LEAVES, KISS THUNDER GOOD BYE! WHEN DURANT, AND WESTBROOK SHOTS DONT FALL, HE IS THE ONE, THAT TAKES IT HARD TO THE HOLE, OR COME UP WITH BIG BASKETS.. HE NEED TO START ANYWAY, GO SOMEWAY FAR FROM US LOL

  39. DfGermany says:

    They won’t amnesty Perkins because they need a good defensive center now that Dwight is in LA. Perkins has proven that he is very capable of limiting Dwights, and that of any potent scoringcenter, scoring aswell as rebounding. The only solution, in which Harden staying would be the endresult, is if he agrees to take a lot less money. Which is improbable since he is still young and agreeing to take a that small amount of money only happens when you have more than enough already and want succes.

    • No easy answer says:

      First response that makes any sense. I agree, Harden would have to take less, LOTS LESS. He won’t.

  40. noyb says:

    OKC is on the wane. LAL is the Best of the West now!

    • Amy says:

      How can the Thunder be on the wane if they still have the title? Thunder still on top of Western Conference.

      Save your bragging for if and when …

      • oooohhh!! says:

        Oh ONE simple year on top and suddenly they are INVINSIBLE!!! LOL Lakers are re-taking the throne!!!!

      • william says:

        I agree… Easy to brag about LA when u look at them on paper…but the fact of the matter is that The NBA Western Conference Champions banner will be hanging in Oklahoma City until further notice… People think b4 u speak…

      • william says:

        ooohhhh….. Thats not even how u spell ***invincible***… Must be a Laker fan… like i said where is the Western Conference Championship banne, from the previous year hanging? Ok City… So until that changes, the Lakers are just the Lakers and Ok City is the Western Conference Champions

      • GR3ddy says:

        @William: Wow dude, OKC won 1 shortened season for the Western Conference compared to multiple wins for the Lakers. What on earth are you comparing? The Lakers are exactly that, The Lakers! And this time around, the Lakers will be extremely hard to beat for OKC. If you lose Harden, good luck making it to the playoffs.

  41. Mental1981 says:

    Obviously, Perkins needs to either be amnestied or traded so that OKC could keep Harden. They would however, be desperately small. They would have to force Ibaka to play a bigger role at center, a-la Chris Bosh last year, and considering that Ibaka is a bigger build than Bosh and about the same height, I would definitely think he should be able to pull it off. They would still need a scrub or two to come off the bench to give him a breather and that’s where you bring in Chris Andersen who was waived, and pay him next to nothing. It’s a win win.

    • No easy answer says:

      Who’s going to guard DH without Perkins? They won’t get to the finals without him so why worry about Bosh lol.

  42. Steven says:

    Kendrick Perkins will be Amnestied, traded or released and they’ll sign Harden this ain’t rocket science them signing Serge let the world know Perk is headed out of OKC!

  43. AS-IF says:

    Lakers will make best offer. Thunder will not deal him to us..they will fear our new size and MWP’s elbow grease…

    • TTKIN says:

      Idk. Kobe will be on the books for 30 mill next yr (58% of the team’s available resources), then they have 19 mill to give Gasol, and theyll try signing Howard before Harden. So I dont see that happening but as a Laker fan id like the move.

  44. Jones17 says:

    I don’t see what the problem is in paying him near top dollar. He won’t command max as he’s said he would prefer to stay with the team.

    OKC need to think if letting him go to save money would be worth losing revenue from not winning as much and playing so many playoff games. If he is the player that gives them the best chance to get in the Finals instead of just conference finals, then the additional gate ticket/TV income will cover the cost of his wages.

    Simple equation to me

    • Sea Pea says:

      OKC ball is the only game in town. This ain’t baseball. Fans will buy tickets even if they are losers.

    • Caliking says:

      this is just hangtime trying to get hits for their ads to make money. this is topic is not worth talking about as the thunder will use their amensty clause on Perkins to keep ibaka and harden. no doubt about it and if they dont then they will pay the luxury tax. big deal small market teams complain about competitive balance and blah blah blah then start using your money to stay competitive. lets make a new rule to make the nba more stupid. how about all small market teams can pay all their players on rookie salaries forever and only big market teams have to pay more. if you feel sorry for the thunder dont be a fool. Why root for the owners when they have their own agenda and the players are the ones you watch and want to see. anyways its the fans dollars that pay for the players salaries if you think about it. Only owner I like in the nba is jerry buss and mickey arison.

    • lbj says:

      we can welcome harden in exchange of haslem,anthony and future round picks. harden wants to get a ring so he will play with the king “LeBron”

      PG: Wade
      SG: Allen
      SF: Harden
      PF: James
      C: Bosh

      6th man: Battier
      Strong Reserve: Chalmers,Cole,Miller,Lewis and Juwan Howard

      back to back championship

      • Levi says:

        No way the Thunder would trade Harden to the Heat, but if they did, they’d have to come up with a whole lot more than that! No way Haslem and Joel Anthony with future picks gets that done. WAY more than that, but like I said, it’s not happening.

      • william says:

        Heat fans crack me up, its like they dont already have enough… if OKC cant afford afford Harden, because of Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka…Then the Heat shouldnt be able to afford him either, seeings how they are already paying Lebron, Wade, Allen, and Bosh good money…I can almost guarantee he wont land in Miami! Heat fans/bandwagoners, keep the rediculous comments to yourself…And like Levi said, No way the Thunder would trade Harden to the Heat, asnd if they did, the two players u just mentioned, wont even be a part of the deal… Anthony and Haslem r both GARBAGE!!!!

      • sam says:

        yeah!!! you’re back man!! i really missed your post!! especially the reply of others taking it seriously!! #lol

    • lbj says:

      we can welcome harden in exchange of haslem,anthony and future round picks. harden wants to get a ring so he will play with the king “LeBron”

      PG: Wade
      SG: Allen
      SF: Harden
      PF: James
      C: Bosh

      6th man: Battier
      Strong Reserve: Chalmers,Cole,Miller,Lewis and Juwan Howard

      back to back championship!

    • jOE jOHNSON FAN says:

      There is a salary cap. that’s the problem. Trade or amnesty Perkins. that’s the answer.

    • MRB says:

      They already have huge contracts for Durant and Westbrook, also Ibaka’s contract. If they offer Harden near top dollar, they’ll be paying a tax they can’t afford. Not like L.A. or New York. Finacially they can’t, at least not as big of offers that other teams will more than likely offer.