Thunder guard James Harden and forward Serge Ibaka are eligible to sign extensions with the team this summer. Contract negotiations have pretty much been put on hold while both Ibaka and Harden compete in the Olympic Games.
Sports Illustrated reporter Sam Amick spoke with Harden recently about signing an extension to continue his career in Oklahoma City, "I'm pretty, a hundred percent, I'm pretty sure that I'll be in Oklahoma City," Harden is quoted as telling Amick.
Sources have told me the Thunder would have begun full-scale negotiations with Harden before now had he not won a spot on Team USA. The plan had been to take care of Harden's new deal first while Ibaka was playing for Spain in the Olympics then work to get Ibaka's deal done. Harden making the U.S. team put everything on hold, though some talks between the Thunder and the agents for both players have been ongoing.
Harden had told reporters here in OKC right after The Finals that he valued winning above almost all else and hinted that he would rather sign a new deal in Oklahoma City for perhaps less money than he could get other places for the chance to keep the core players together with the Thunder and make numerous runs at NBA Championships, "we're building a dynasty here," is how Harden said it then.
When asked the same kind of question by Amick recently Harden said, "I love wining, we have some great guys over here, something special, something I don't think any other NBA team has...so I'm focused on what we have and trying to win a Championship with these guys."
Once the Olympics are over negotiations between the Thunder and both Harden and Ibaka are expected to ramp up. Everyone would like to see deals done before training camp open at the beginning of October. The team has until Halloween to get extensions signed, after that both players would be eligible to become restricted free agents after the season and each would likely generate offers from several teams. The Phoenix Suns are expected to make a strong push for Harden to bring him back to the area where he was a college star at Arizona State.
Thunder teammate Kevin Durant tweeted a few weeks ago that he didn't think Harden would make it onto the open market and when Amick talked to him recently he still sounded as though he believed that to be true.
"I'm positive that it'll happen," KD is quoted as saying, "but you never know. All I can do is hope for the best. But James wants to be here and we want him here and Serge the same way, so we'll see."
TEAM USA MEETS AUSTRALIA TODAY
Harden, Durant and their other Thunder mate Russell Westbrook, along with the rest of Team USA will take on Australia today at 4:15 Oklahoma time in the so-called knockout round of the Olympics.
Durant now leads Team USA in scoring after five games averageing 18.5 points per game. K.D. has been red hot from long range connecting on 61 percent of his 3-point attempts.
News & Notes from around the Association
• Maybe the third time will prove to be the charm?
The Portland Trail Blazers announced the hiring of Dallas Mavericks assistant and former OU star Terry Stotts as their next coach in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
“Terry is one of the elite offensive minds in the NBA, has extensive experience with multiple organizations and was instrumental in the Dallas Mavericks winning the 2011 NBA Championship,” Blazers GM Neil Olshey said in a statement. “He understands the vision for the future of the franchise, appreciates the process involved and will create an environment on the court that will produce championship habits.”
Stotts, 54, previously served as the head man on two occasions: from 2002-2004 with the Atlanta Hawks and 2005-07 with the Milwaukee Bucks. He holds a career coaching record of 115-168 and boasts one playoff appearance and zero .500+ seasons to his name.
• If Dennis Lindsey was going to be an NBA general manger, the timing had to be right and the culture perfect.
He found that combination with the Utah Jazz, who on Tuesday introduced the former San Antonio Spurs exec as new GM. Longtime Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor relinquished day-to-day duties with Utah but will continue to oversee basketball operations as an executive vice president.
Jazz CEO Greg Miller did not mince words in outlining his expectations for Lindsey, who spent the past five seasons in San Antonio’s front office and was Utah’s first and only choice for the job.
“I view your arrival here as a tangible step in our march toward a championship,” Miller said.
• Power Balance Pavilion could get renamed yet again – and Sleep Train is one of the candidates.
Sleep Train Mattress Centers said Tuesday it’s negotiating with the Sacramento Kings for naming rights to the team’s arena. The Rocklin, California-based retailer is one of several companies talking to the Kings about naming rights.
Kings co-owner Joe Maloof confirmed the team is in negotiations for a replacement for Power Balance. He said the Kings’ marketing staff is handling the talks and he had no information about which companies are in the running. The team declined to comment further. Hhmmm "Sleep Train Arena" I'm not sure that's gonna get people fired up.