The Oklahoma City Thunder locked up Serge Ibaka for the next four years yesterday, agreeing to a 4-year, $48 million contract extension with him.
Ibaka was one of three Thunder players eligible for an extension this summer with James Harden and Eric Maynor being the other two.
Harden was always thought to be the first priority for the Thunder with Ibaka possibly becoming the odd man out, if the Thunder were going to choose between the two. Now that the Thunder have locked up Ibaka, Harden’s future with the team seems uncertain to some, but not GM Sam Presti.
“We’re going to continue our conversations with James. We very much value him,” Presti said on a conference call yesterday. “We want him to be part of the organization moving forward. We’re excited he’s a member of the Thunder and we hope he’ll be with us for years moving forward.”
The only thing that has stood in the way of OKC extending Harden and Ibaka is the looming luxury tax. By extending both of them, the Thunder are almost guaranteed to suffer harsh luxury tax penalties which would be tough for them being in a small market.
It looks like the Thunder are going to bite the bullet and pay the luxury tax at least for a season or two because it feels like the Harden extension is coming soon.
“These type of things have their own tempo. Their own rhythm. They happen independently of one another,” Presti said. “Sometimes you get to that point a little bit sooner, but it doesn’t necessarily mean those conversations are at different rates or any indications of one way or the other.”
This makes sense too and should make Thunder fans feel better. The Thunder were by no means picking Ibaka over Harden by signing him first, it was just a little easier to negotiate and come to an agreement with Ibaka.
Harden will be trickier. While Ibaka didn’t sign for close to the maximum, Harden and everyone else certainly know that he is worth a max-deal and will get one next summer if he becomes a restricted free agent. That means these negotiations will take a little more time.
By all accounts, Harden is committed to staying in OKC for the long haul and the Thunder organization is committed to keeping him. They realize what this situation is and how rare it is to have a young core as talented as this one. They’re not going to waste this opportunity and they will let the potential of this team play out.
How awesome is that?