James Harden is reportedly close to re-signing with the Thunder after winning gold with the U.S. Olympic team this summer. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden is reportedly closer to a long-term deal to stay with the team, according to a report Thursday afternoon from Steve Kyler of HoopsHype.com:
Harden and the Thunder seem like they are going to reach a deal. Sources close to the situation say there is such a desire by Harden to end the speculation that he may cave on his max contract demands. [T]here appears to be a real desire on all sides to end the circus that Harden’s impending free agency is causing and it seems the Thunder and their ownership are willing to lock James up now.
Harden has shot an abysmal 28 percent from the field during the preseason, so it could be that the contract negotiations are impeding on his performance. Harden's teammate Russell Westbrook experienced a similar situation last season when he started off poorly only to sign a five-year contract extension worth $78 million and returned to form.
As Fran Blinebury explains on NBA.com, the Thunder have until Halloween to sign Harden to a max four-year contract extension worth $60 million. If a deal isn't reached by then, the team will no doubt be hearing trade offers for him until the Feb. 21 NBA trade deadline. Once that passes, it will be only a matter of time before Harden becomes a free agent at the end of the season in the spring.
Harden, the 2012 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and one steal in 31 minutes per game last season but underperformed in most categories throughout the playoffs.