Harden on contract extension: “I just want to take my time with it”
Kevin Durant signed his, and the conventional wisdom around the league has been that James Harden will soon ink his contract extension with the Nets. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks sounded confident the deal would get done. (Kyrie Irving is up for an extension as well, but that situation has grown more complicated.)
Harden, a player going at his own pace and seemingly never rushed into a bad decision on the court, is not going to be rushed off it, either. In an interview with Malika Andrews of ESPN, Harden sounds like a patient man.
James Harden, in part, on his contract extension: “I'm just taking my time with it. You know, I think over the course of my career I've never been a free agent before… I think this season I just want to focus on winning the championship.”— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) September 29, 2021
Full @SportsCenter conversation: pic.twitter.com/8lQQTYoyyE
“You know, I think over the course of my career I’ve never been a free agent before, so I’ve always just been loyal and just signed it, you know, the contract extension. Just being there, being there, being there. I just want to take my time with it. It would be very, very difficult to leave here, or to even leave Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving.
“But I think this season I just want to focus on winning the championship and everything else will work itself out.”
For Harden, that max extension is three years, $161.1 million. Harden has said he is healthy coming off the hamstring issue that slowed him last playoffs, and it is scary time for the rest of the league.
If one wanted to, one could try to spin Harden saying “I’ve never been a free agent before” to suggest he wants to test the market. It sounds a little like he could play out this contract and listen to teams who want to pitch him (although there are not many teams currently lined up to have much cap space next summer, teams would make space, or come up with sign-and-trades, to land the seven-time All-NBA player and former MVP).
However, in the following sentence, Harden talks about not wanting to leave Brooklyn, not leave Durant and Irving. Plus, he wants to focus on winning a championship, and he’s not going to get closer to that goal anywhere outside of Brooklyn. Good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Harden is actually leaving the Nets.
Harden will likely do what agents have been telling players to do for a few years now: Sign the max extension, lock in the money, and if he wants to get traded, they can push for that down the line. Just don’t let that money come off the table.