On the outside looking in, life couldn’t be better for James Harden than it is right now. He has an extension worth close to $80 million. He’s the focal point, the franchise player of a young and talented team that’s won two of their first three games with him. Harden is currently leading the lead in scoring by a wide margin (almost ten points a night), and also has more responsibility than any player in the NBA (No. 1 in usage rate, just barely ahead of his old teammate Russell Westbrook).
But the Beard is still a little disappointed at the way he left Oklahoma City. After some back-and-forth negotiations between the two sides left them about $6 million apart, Sam Presti and the Thunder started working the phones, brought a deal with Houston to their doorstep for leverage with Harden’s camp, and then went back to the reigning Sixth Man of the Year with a final offer (this time $54 million, a slight increase from their original stance). They gave him an hour to accept or decline.
Harden told Yahoo! Sports that, “After everything we established – everything we had done – you give me an hour? This was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I wanted to go home and pray about it. It hurt me. It hurt.”
From there, we all know what happened: OKC made the deal that shocked the basketball world, and now we have Harden blowing up in Houston, looking every bit the dominant scorer stat heads said he could be all along. Harden admits he doesn’t know whether more time (a few hours, a day perhaps) would’ve made him come back to the Thunder. But there’s no denying it would’ve helped.
From OKC’s perspective, the deal had to be done quickly because Houston needed time before the deadline to negotiate a long-term extension with Harden. Without that, the deal would’ve fallen through, Harden would probably be looking at restricted free agency this summer, and from the Thunder’s perspective, they would’ve lost leverage in any potential trade down the line.
“I was there with talented guys in Oklahoma City, some All-Star guys, and I would’ve been in the back seat there – which I was fine with – but I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to show how talented I really am,” Harden told Yahoo! Sports. “It’s a different opportunity for me here.”
During my senior year of high school, I was still mulling over three schools all the way into April when I got a call on a Sunday afternoon. I had an hour to decide whether I wanted to come to Springfield College. Harsh? A little. Fair? Not really. But in the end, it put me on the spot and forced me to finally make a choice. I ended up going with Springfield, which was probably the school I would’ve picked anyway, just as Harden waited it out because in the end, he wanted more money. I’m happy with how my time in college turned out (even if the basketball side wasn’t a great experience). Hopefully Harden and OKC can move on as well.
Who got the better of this deal?
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