In the meantime, legitimate questions linger about how the uncertainty might impact Harden on the court this season. Last year, he earned Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 49.1 percent, all career highs. Thunder coach Scott Brooks, however, said he is more concerned about Harden's defense than the contract matter possibly becoming a distraction.
“There's a lot of good things I love about our guys, and being focused is always one of them,” Brooks said. “They've always done that at a high level. Going into training camp, I don't see it any different.”
Harden said he's leaned on Russell Westbrook so far throughout this process. Westbrook, you may recall, had his extension negotiations drag last season before finally settling on a deal in mid-January. Because of the lockout-shortened season, the NBA pushed back the customary Oct. 31 deadline for players to sign extensions to their rookie deals before becoming restricted free agents. Westbrook, as a result, was forced to play the first 15 regular season games with that cloud of uncertainty hovering above him. Not surprisingly Westbrook struggled, averaging just 20.5 points and 3.5 turnovers over that span.
“It makes it easy to have these guys on my side,” Harden said of his teammates. “I talk to Russell a lot just because he was in the same situation I'm in. He gives me advice all the time on what I need to do and how I should just focus on basketball, focus on the teammates and the things that I can do individually to help the Thunder win games. That's my focus right now. That's what I will continue to be focused on.”