If you buy what James Harden is selling, he won't be going anywhere.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year spent the majority of his media day session with reporters Monday insisting he still wants to be a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and expressing confidence that it's only a matter of time before his highly anticipated contract extension gets ironed out.
“Yeah,” Harden said when asked if he thought a deal will be reached by the Oct. 31 deadline. “Sure. That's why I'm not too worried about it.“I know. I have confidence in my agent and the organization to get it done. They know how important it is, so I'm sure it will be done.”
If no deal is reached, Harden will become a restricted free agent next summer. That means the Thunder would have the right to match any offer he receives — if Oklahoma City doesn't choose to wash its hands of the situation and trade him before the deadline.
Should the Thunder hold onto Harden all year even if no agreement is reached, the team would risk losing Harden to a team with sufficient salary cap space to sign him to a max contract. Although it's been reported that Harden desires a max deal, he said Monday when asked directly if it's not max or nothing with the Thunder that it's not.
“No,” Harden said. “Like I said, I'm not really worried about that. I'm not focused on it. I'll let my agent and (Thunder general manager) Sam (Presti) figure that out, all those numbers and things like that. I'm really just focused on hooping; hooping and bettering myself … as a basketball player.”
The question becomes why hasn't a deal gotten done? It's a question that Harden deflected and deferred to Presti and his agent rather than go into details about.
“They're discussing that,” Harden said. “I let them deal with the contract situation. My focus is on playing basketball. Everything will figure itself out eventually. But right now, training camp is starting. I think everybody is excited to be here and just enjoy each other's company. We really missed each other.”
In addition to refuting his reported desire for a max contract, Harden also said he still is willing to sacrifice somehow to ensure a deal gets done. It's an idea he first floated in late June following the team's loss in the NBA Finals.