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OKC Thunder: James Harden's future with Thunder comes down to dollars and cents

Deadline to sign rookie contract extensions is Oct. 31. If Harden doesn't sign with Thunder by then, he'll become a restricted free agent next summer.
By John Rohde Published: August 26, 2012


photo - NBA BASKETBALL: Oklahoma City's James Harden laughs as he stretches before practice for Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Saturday, June 16, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
NBA BASKETBALL: Oklahoma City's James Harden laughs as he stretches before practice for Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Saturday, June 16, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

With the extension deadline 65 days away, the clock quietly is ticking. The closer Oct. 31 gets, the louder that clock will tick.

In time, it could become as imposing as Big Ben, not far from where Harden and Team USA captured the gold medal earlier this month at the Summer Olympics.

One month ago today in London, Harden was asked if he would consider signing with the Suns if he doesn't re-sign with the Thunder.

“Yeah,” Harden told The Arizona Republic. “Of course. I love it there. My mom lives there still. So that's definitely my second home as far as my comfort level and going to school there.”

Harden then added, “But obviously, I'm with the Thunder right now and what we have is special.”

Signing Serge Ibaka on Aug. 18 to a four-year, $49-million extension (plus a potential $2.5 million in incentives) limits what the Thunder can offer Harden, which figures to be an even more expensive extension that starts in 2013-14. Harden will make $5,820,416 this season.

“The kind of support we have in Oklahoma City, it's the best in the NBA,” said Harden, the bearded wonder who turned 23 on Sunday. “Phenomenal. Beards in the crowd, the whole nine (yards). The city is really something special.”

To remain with the Thunder, Harden almost certainly will surrender his full earning potential — an average salary of roughly $15 million per season.

“That's out of my hands,” Harden said of contract negotiations. “That's not my decision. That's the front office. I'll let them decide that.”

Actually, the decision will be Harden's.