But Harden misplayed it badly if he really did want to stay arm-in-arm with Kevin Durant and Westbrook, a status which in three short years has made him an Olympian, an NBA star and a cult hero far beyond little ol' OKC.
First off, Presti and Clay Bennett aren't exactly jokesters. They're serious men. You might not like what they say, but you can believe what they say — and yes, that means you, too, Seattle.
“We have to do what we say,” Presti said Sunday.
Plus, the Thunder contract offer not only was generous, it was borderline irresponsible. I have no idea how Presti thinks he was going to be able to pay Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Harden a combined $60 million a year, without luxury taxes endangering the franchise.
But Thunder ownership went out on a shaky limb and OK'd the offer.
Harden had been demanding a maximum contract from the Thunder and never really retreated. The difference between the Thunder's final offer and the max is about $5 million over four years — $1.25 million a year.
Of course, that's $1.25 million to Harden, but much more than that to the Thunder, because of luxury taxes.
Harden will get a five-year deal from Houston, upward of $78 million, an offer unavailable from the Thunder since the new labor agreement limits five-year deals to one per team, and Westbrook got the Thunder's exception a year ago.
So Harden has his max contract. Nice consolation prize for feeling devastated.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.