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With the deadline looming, contract extension talks go down to the wire

Stephen Curry An ailing Stephen Curry is unlikely to receive an extension before the deadline.(Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

By Rob Mahoney

The NBA season begins tonight, but extension season ends tomorrow. Oct. 31 marks the last day first-round picks from the 2009 draft can sign an extension. Without a new deal, these players will become restricted free agents next summer. We've already examined which eligible players deserve an extension, but with the deadline looming, here's an update on where the talks stand.

• While it's essentially certain that James Harden will sign an extension before the Oct. 31st deadline, there's been little clarification as to whether the Rockets will offer a four-year max offer or make Harden their designated candidate for a five-year extension. Either way, Harden is set to be the centerpiece of Houston's renovation.

Ty Lawson, the 18th pick in the 2009 draft, signed a four-year extension with the Nuggets Tuesday afternoon.

• Things are hardly going as well for Jrue Holiday in Philadelphia, judging from remarks made by Holiday's agent in a report by Sam Amick of USA Today:

"We've had conversations, but I don't feel like any progress has been made," [Holiday's agent] Tony Dutt told USA Today Sports on Monday of talks with the Sixers. "We haven't talked in a while."

That doesn't come as a surprise. Holiday seems to have a gross misunderstanding of his value at this point, best demonstrated by the fact that he was reportedly seeking a max extension despite his merely solid performance to date. That level of financial investment is reserved for a select few, and though Holiday is a valued part of the Sixers' future, he's shown neither the promise nor the production to warrant such a lofty commitment.

• The Bulls are in a position where every salary dollar committed matters a great deal, and Taj Gibson is set to get his first big, post-rookie contract. That juxtaposition has created some divide in the negotiations between the two. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls and Gibson are roughly $2 million apart in terms of the extension's annual salary, making for an $8 million difference over a four-year period. That's not a gulf, per se, but with this franchise it may as well be. It'll be a different story if the Bulls are forced to make a matching decision on an offer sheet for Gibson in restricted free agency, but, for the moment, it's hard to imagine a team with so much committed salary willingly crossing the negotiation divide.

• Concerns over Stephen Curry's health have predictably become an obstacle in his extension talks with the Warriors, and according to Amick's report, Curry's injury-shortened preseason hasn't helped matters:

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, the No. 7 pick, could follow suit with Harden, though two people with knowledge of his negotiations told USA Today Sports that a gap remains between the two sides. The people requested anonymity because the negotiations are ongoing.

Curry's agent, Jeff Austin, and Warriors general manager Bob Myers tabled talks during the preseason, in part so Myers could observe Curry's right ankle closely after his return from surgery in late April. But Curry, who has averaged 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game in three seasons but missed 40 of 66 games in the 2011-12 campaign, turned the ankle in preseason play on Oct. 19 and was told to rest until the regular season by coach Mark Jackson. It was hardly the strong start Curry wanted to prove he's worthy of a hefty long-term commitment.

In a vacuum, Curry is a great player deserving of some security. Yet the prospect of having so much of their cap space committed to Curry and the equally injury-prone Andrew Bogut has the Warriors, understandably, treading carefully. If healthy, those two would make up a solid nucleus for the next few seasons, but their collective injury history suggests that we shouldn't assume availability. Golden State has been forced into a difficult contract calculus and, as a result, may wait until the end of the season to make a decision on Curry.

Brandon Jennings Brandon Jennings and the Bucks appear far apart prior to the deadline. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

*****

• It's been all but assumed up to this point that Brandon Jennings and the Bucks would be too far apart in their extension discussions to make any kind of compromise, and Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD has given that assumption a more specific context:

The Bucks and Jennings are not going to reach an extension deal. One source close to the process said Jennings’ camp was looking for a deal in the $9 to $10 million range and the Bucks just don’t seem willing to engage that at this point. For Jennings to have a shot at a deal in that range, he’ll have to earn it on the court this year or get another team to offer it as a restricted free agent next summer.

• Ditto for Tyreke Evans, who the Kings have no incentive whatsoever to lock up long-term. Amick's report features a quote from Sacramento's president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie that, while a few weeks old, represents the team's logic:

"In Tyreke's case, you can make X (amount of money) now, but if you want to make X-plus, then certain things have to happen," Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said in early October.

Eric Maynor and the Thunder are also set to ride out the season before coming to a deal, albeit for completely different reasons. Maynor's value to Oklahoma City is far more certain than Evans' is to Sacramento, and far less pricey to boot. But with the Thunder still mindful of their finances, Sam Presti is willing to table negotiations until next summer, as he articulated in this piece by Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

“We’ve had positive dialogue with Eric,” Presti said. “He’s a guy that means a lot to this ballclub. We value him. He’s continually gaining more and more confidence coming back from the injury and looks fantastic.

“Whether or not we will ultimately do anything with him in terms of an extension is I don’t think a reflection of his wanting to be here or our wanting to keep him in the program. I think it just may be better for us to see how things develop for the season. For him as well. I think he has to see that as well … I really do think he appreciates being with this organization, and that goes a long way here.”

Jeff Teague was never considered to be a realistic extension candidate, but the Hawks have reportedly gone out of their way to ensure that a lack of a deal doesn't convey a lack of interest on their part to the young point guard.

• The Bobcats have apparently done the same with Gerald Henderson and, shockingly, B.J. Mullens. Via Kyler's report for HOOPSWORLD:

The Bobcats apparently had similar conversations with Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens. The Bobcats are hoping for a big season from Mullens and are more interested in seeing what the market is like next summer, but have repeatedly expressed that Mullens is part of the core they are trying to build around and having flexibility next summer is a key part of that building process. The Bobcats will have roughly $21 million in guaranteed contracts next summer, but will also have to deal with Henderson and Mullens as potential restricted free agents. Bobcats sources say keeping both players is part of the plan, but having flexibility trumps everything at this stage for a rebuilding Charlotte team.
DeMar DeRozan's case in Toronto is as open-and-shut as one would think. According to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, the Raptors and DeRozan's reps are continuing talks of some kind but don't at all appear close to a formal deal.
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