“This team is like a family. Like, we're really brothers. We hang out most of the time every single day. You won't find any other team like this. I love it here.” — Thunder guard James Harden.
It was June 23 when Thunder guard James Harden evoked hope that there was a way his contract extension would get done and he'd remain in Oklahoma City.
“This is something special here,” he told reporters at his exit interview. “A dynasty is being built here. So we're winning, we're having fun and we're brothers. The other stuff, you can't buy it.”
More than three months — 99 days to be exact — have passed since Harden made those statements and yet here we are on the first day of October with little to no progress in negotiations to report.
Now, with the Thunder kicking off the 2012-13 season with media day on Monday, we've reached crunch time on Harden's contract negotiations. The two sides have just 30 days to reach a deal. But as the clock continues to tick, it's starting to look like Harden is destined to become a restricted free agent and let the open market determine his value.
The sensational sixth man who once sounded so sure he would sacrifice something to stay with the team that drafted him now appears ready to ride out this stalemate.
If he does, that could effectively spell the end of Harden's time in OKC.
Harden is believed to be seeking a max contract, and it's common knowledge that he would be all but guaranteed to receive one from another team next summer. But it's also been well-documented how the Thunder can't venture into that territory, which means if this deadline comes and goes, Harden will soon be headed elsewhere unless he has a massive change of heart.