OKC Thunder: James Harden's light far from dimmed by OKC

If he leaves after next season, it will be over money, not because he's having exposure issues in a small market
by Berry Tramel Modified: July 10, 2012 at 12:01 am •  Published: July 9, 2012


photo - OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER NBA BASKETBALL / MUG: Oklahoma City's James Harden (13) speaks during a press conference at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center in Oklahoma City,  Saturday, June 23, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER NBA BASKETBALL / MUG: Oklahoma City's James Harden (13) speaks during a press conference at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center in Oklahoma City, Saturday, June 23, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

So lack of a beach, or lack of bright lights, or even lack of an airport hub, seems to be no impediment to NBA success. Salt Lake City showed us that. Then San Antonio. Now OKC.

Harden referred to himself as an “icon” the other day at Olympic hoop headquarters in Las Vegas. He wasn't being haughty, just honest. Despite a miserable NBA Finals, Harden made his mark league-wide during the Thunder's 20 playoff games, averaging 16.3 points. He even manned up and showed a willingness to defend the likes of Kobe Bryant (with some success) and LeBron James (not so much).

Harden's newfound stardom will drive up his price tag. But don't blame the Olympic berth. That's merely a symptom of his status, not the cause.

Harden, who until Oct. 31 can sign a contract extension but otherwise will become a restricted free agent next summer, was going to be a plum either way.

The Suns last week offered Eric Gordon a virtual maximum contract -- $58 million over four years — and no reason to think Harden wouldn't get the same. The Olympic selection committee has declared its preference for Harden over Gordon, but truthfully, anyone watching Harden improve exponentially from year to year already knew Harden's worth was at least equal to that of Gordon.

If Harden wants $14.5 million a year to play basketball, he can get it. And even if he's willing to take the hometown discount, that's rising, too, maybe as high as $12 million or more.

If Harden leaves the Thunder, it will be over money, not the city, and who would have thought it?

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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