By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Negotiating ploys aside, when things come down to the midnight hour, Oklahoma City’s front office needs to swallow its pride and pay James Harden.
At least that’s what ESPN/Grantland columnist Bill Simmons wrote in this comprehensive column exploring the Thunder’s Harden situation.
It’s an opinionated piece by an outspoken writer (who has caught the ire of OKC fans in the past by only referring to the Thunder as the ‘Zombie Sonics’). But he’s a guy that understands the complexities of the NBA salary cap and the history of the game (he wrote a 700-page book thoroughly scanning every era). So at the very least, it’s an interesting read.
Below are some key excerpts from the column:
Taking a look at Harden’s side of things…
OK, so imagine you’re James Harden. Your team already took care of Durant and Westbrook, gave $48 million to someone who couldn’t start for Spain’s Olympic team (sorry, I had to), and guaranteed Kendrick Perkins $25.4 million over the next three years (yes, the decimal was in the right place). Now they’re telling you, “You can stay, Glue Guy For Our Perennial Contender, but only if you take less.” Why should Harden agree to that? He’s already sacrificing his numbers and fulfilling a relatively thankless role: the third banana, the supporting character with a rare and significant ability to step up on command and handle things offensively anytime Westbrook goes into one of his little funks. Statistically, he’s one of the most efficient players in basketball.
Simmons’ three potential outcomes…
• Harden’s agent accepts less money to stay in Oklahoma City — a fundamentally ignorant decision that would mean they were brainwashed by Oklahoma City’s small-market B.S.. If that happens, lock down the Zombies for two to four titles in the 2010s assuming nothing funky happens.
• Harden’s agent says, “Let’s play this baby out.” That’s actually the best outcome for both parties. Harden guarantees himself a four-year, $64 million offer from someone this summer; Oklahoma City locks Harden into a cheap 2012-13 price ($5.82 million) while also leaving itself the flexibility to (a) trade Harden during the season (doubtful; they’d never mess that dramatically with a potential title team), (b) match Harden’s “max” offer next summer and amnesthize Kendrick Perkins (most likely), or (c) match that offer, then trade Harden or Westbrook after the 2013-14 season because the tax penalties will keep getting worse (possible).
• Oklahoma City panics and trades Harden before Halloween, or some time before February’s deadline, for 100 cents on the dollar. Totally improbable … and yet, we can’t totally rule it out.
How he sees it playing out…
I see them picking the “Let’s play this baby out” option because it’s a safer move; because it’s beneficial to them ecomonically (at least this season); because it allows them to keep every conceivable option open; and because you never jeopardize a potential title when you’re this close. Remember how close OKC came to winning that Finals? The first four games probably came down to five or six plays total. But just for fun, what if someone bowled them over with a Godfather offer right now? And what would that offer look like?
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