There’s no question that the Rockets are simply a better team with James Harden in the lineup and now a better, more stable franchise with his name on a five-year, maximum contract, as allowed by the new collective bargaining agreement.
The deal Harden agreed to will pay him $78.6 million over the length of the contract, an amount the Rockets are more than happy to fork over to what general manager Daryl Morey referred to as a “foundational player.” Even with him on the books, the Rockets will be able to afford another max player next summer in free agency and Houston just became a more attractive free-agent destination.
But this was also an offseason when the Rockets gave out matching $25.1 million, three-year contracts to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, with each due just under $15 million in the final year. That means in the 2014-15 season, the Rockets will have $45 million tied up in the trio of Harden, Lin and Asik.
How fast can they grow together into a formidable Big Threesome that might contend for a championship and be worthy of that kind of outlay? Or how soon before one of them — Lin or Asik — has to go for salary cap relief?
In this new era of Draconian luxury tax penalties, the clock’s always ticking.