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.”