Posted June 25, 2012

James Harden wants to stay with Thunder, could sign extension in July

NBA

James Harden wants to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder and keep its core, including Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, together. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

James Harden wants to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder for a long time. The question is whether the Thunder can afford him and the rest of its young core.

Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, said in exit interviews Saturday that “a dynasty is being built” in Oklahoma City, when asked whether money or team success was more important for him in the future, The Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry reported.

Harden is eligible to sign a long-term extension to his rookie contract with the Thunder on July 1. Thunder general manager Sam Presti will have to get creative to be able to keep the team’s core — which, along with Harden, consists of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka — together to keep building that dynasty.

Ibaka is also eligible for an extension this offseason. Durant and Westbrook are already locked up to maximum contracts, and some see Harden as a player with potential to earn a maximum contract. Presti has one advantage — Harden wants to stay.

“This is something special here,” Harden told reporters. “A dynasty is being built here. So we’re winning, we’re having fun and we’re brothers. The other stuff, you can’t buy it.”

Coming off the bench for all but two games this season, Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He was stellar in the Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs, but underwhelmed in the Finals loss to the Miami Heat, averaging 12.4 points on 37 percent shooting.

“This team is like a family,” Harden said. “Like, we’re really brothers. We hang out most of the time every single day. You won’t find any other team like this. I love it here.”