After parting ways with its sixth man on Saturday, the Thunder could soon see another one of its steady reserves leave town.
Point guard Eric Maynor will become a restricted free agent next summer after the Thunder and Maynor agreed to table negotiations on a contract extension, The Oklahoman has learned.
The two sides had until midnight Eastern on Wednesday to agree on a deal for the 20th overall pick in 2009. Thunder general manager Sam Presti and agent Andy Miller, however, made the mutual decision this week to play out the season and resume talks in July.
Maynor, 25, is regarded as one of the league’s top backup point guards and a capable starter if given the opportunity. He could be a hot commodity in free agency, but the Thunder will have the right to match any offer Maynor might receive from another team next summer.
When the Thunder traded James Harden to Houston on Saturday night, it appeared a window opened to retain Maynor. Most observers believed that if the Thunder extended Harden’s contract it was only a matter of time before Maynor and the Thunder would be forced to move on from one another. It’s possible the Thunder now uses a portion of the savings it acquired from being unable to come to terms with Harden to re-sign Maynor.
But two issues have complicated matters. Maynor is coming off a major knee injury, and second-year point guard Reggie Jackson is emerging into a potential impact player. Maynor tore his ACL nine games into last season but is now recovered and ready to reclaim his position as the primary backup to Russell Westbrook. But coach Scott Brooks has maintained that the backup job is an open competition between Maynor and Jackson, who showed tremendous growth this preseason.
Jackson clearly is considered an important part of the Thunder’s future, which puts a small level of pressure on the franchise to decide how much it is willing to commit to Maynor. A tandem of Maynor and Jackson coming off the bench would be a luxury rather than a necessity with a budding superstar in Westbrook as the starter.
At a news conference addressing Harden’s trade, Presti on Saturday afternoon gave Maynor a strong endorsement but essentially said the two sides will play out the season.
“We’ve had positive dialogue with Eric,” Presti said. “He’s a guy that means a lot to this ballclub. We value him. He’s continually gaining more and more confidence coming back from the injury and looks fantastic.
“Whether or not we will ultimately do anything with him in terms of an extension is I don’t think a reflection of his wanting to be here or our wanting to keep him in the program. I think it just may be better for us to see how things develop for the season.”