When the clock stuck midnight Tuesday morning, there was no announcement, no tweet and presumably no action on a James Harden extension, signaling he’ll take a little bit of a risk and wait till next year.
Harden can now enter free agency next summer. He’ll be paid $44.3 million this season with a player option of $47.4 million in 2022-23. There seems no concern among Nets ownership and management that he wants to play anywhere but Brooklyn.
On Tuesday, while Sean Marks declined comment, Steve Nash told reporters his feelings.
“I haven’t thought much about it because James loves it here. He’s totally locked in,” said the Nets coach. “So while we’d love to have signed him before the deadline, it’s James’ prerogative when he resigns and we know he’s happy here.”
Joe Tsai had similar comments recently.
“Whether or not it’s the season now or later, the way I look at it is he’s already said I want to play and finish my career in Brooklyn: He’s actually said that. Our job is to make sure that he continues to feel that way,” Tsai told Brian Lewis.
Harden himself has spoken about his desire to stay.
“It’s not about the money for me,” Harden told Brian Windhorst of ESPN before training camp. “I’ve been on enough teams where we fell short. So my mindset and my goal is to make sure we’re able to build and continue to build this team to be able to compete as a team for multiple, multiple years at the highest level. Win a championship in New York, the money will come.”
The difference for Harden in terms of money would likely be huge, about $62 million, assuming all goes well and the Nets max him out next July. That max would include a final year when The Beard would become the first NBA player to make $60 million in a year.
Of course, the Nets had been more optimistic about getting all the “Big Three” done before training camp, with Sean Marks saying on September 1 that he expected to have Harden and Kyrie Irving “signed, sealed and delivered” by then. Marks got Durant’s signature on a four year extension beyond this year. The extension will pay him $198 million and keep him in the borough through 2026.
Irving’s extension status is on hold because of his vaccination status. He did not have a deadline.