Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and now Serge Ibaka have signed on for the long haul in Oklahoma City.
Each signed extensions of their rookie contract at big numbers.
Durant's seemed to come the easiest and the quickest. The Thunder offered the most money and years allowed and KD left no doubt he prefered the not-so-bright lights and the slower pace of life in central Oklahoma to the fast lane of big cities.
Russell Westbrook grew up in the fast lane of life in Los Angeles and some Thunder fans feared he wanted to return and before Russ signed his extension it seemed the Lakers might be in the market for a young stud point guard but Westbrook too prefered Oklahoma to SoCal.
Compared to where Serge Ibaka spent most of his youth Oklahoma City IS the big city and Monday Ibaka made it clear he wanted to stay where he was comfortable. He said he loved living in OKC and loved his teammates. He said Thunder big man coach Mark Bryant was like a second father to him and he pledged to continue to strive to make the most of his amazing abilities.
"This is only the beginning of my career," he told reporters, "I know I still have a long way to go. I will keep working hard and keep my focus and try to get better and better every day."
So now the Thunder have three of their four young core players signed up for the future.
Getting that fourth one, the NBA's Sixth man of the Year, to do the same is apparently not going to be easy.
Not that we figured it would be even after James Harden said during his exit interviews that he would be willing to sacrifice some salary for the opportunity to continue "building a dynasty" aas he said then, with the Thunder.
The harsh reality keeps slapping us in the face as the NBA's new luxury tax penalties get ready to put the squeeze on teams, especially teams like the Thunder trying to keep outstanding young players in the fold while dealing with the revenue restrictions of a small market.
Thunder GM Sam Presti didn't sound very optimistic to me when he was asked at the end of Ibaka's news conference about Harden, saying things like it has to work for both parties, we love James, BUT, and it's going to be difficult with all the challenges.
Columnist Jenni Carlson seemed to have the same reaction because she wrote about it in Tuesday's edition of The Oklahoman. But maybe we're both wrong. Presti can be hard to read at times so I'll let you judge for yourself. You can listen to what Presti had to say about the Harden negotiations by clicking here.
Even listening to it again, I'm not encouraged.
There's still time of course to get a deal done but that sound you're starting to hear getting louder and louder is the clock ticking down toward that October 31st deadline and an alarm that would signal a change in direction for a team so many of us thought we knew exactly where it was going.