HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Might things be heating up between the Oklahoma City Thunder and their prized sixth man James Harden regarding negotiations for a contract extension?
That’s what Thunder center Kendrick Perkins told the Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry today after a speaking engagement in the city, stirring hopes that something could get done sooner rather than later:
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, speaking following an appearance at a Thunder Fit event at a local middle school, said the two sides are “getting close” on a deal that would keep the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Oklahoma City.
“We’re doing good. We’re making positive steps going forward,” Perkins said of the organization’s off-season. “We got coach (Scott) Brooks locked in. We got Serge (Ibaka) locked in. And we’re getting close with James, and we’re getting close to keeping our unit together. And we’re still hungry.”
Harden is eligible to receive an extension of up to four years. Harden is believed to be seeking a contract worth the maximum allowable amount, which could be $58 million. But with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook already inked to maximum deals, as well as Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins recently signing high-dollar extensions, the Thunder might not be able to afford to keep Harden with more severe penalties for teams that exceed the tax level set to kick in prior to the 2013-14 season.
If Harden doesn’t sign a deal by Oct. 31 he will become a restricted free agent next summer, which would allow him to hit the open market but gives the Thunder the right to match any deal he might be offered.
Training camp is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, and Perkins said he is confident that when Harden returns he’ll naturally want to remain with the team that drafted him third overall in 2009 without anybody needing to convince him to do so.
“Once James gets here it’s nothing to be said,” Perkins said. “He’ll see his family and that’s all he needs. So once he sees everybody’s faces that’s enough said.”
This news comes on the heels of a far less optimistic report from Monday, when Thunder general manager Sam Presti wasn’t nearly as optimistic in his assessment of the current state of negotiations between the franchise and Harden’s camp.
Presti is probably appreciative of the work Perkins is doing updating the public on where things stand. But something tells us he’d prefer that no one speaks for the organization in this matter before he does.