4 min read

The Dark Side of the Beard: Time is ticking for Harden’s extension

From what I gathered from Sam Presti’s nearly hour-long preseason press conference is that James Harden is like Pink Floyd and Eric Maynor is more like Woody Guthrie.

Or something.

Presti’s presser took a wonderful detour into an extended conversation about what he likes to do to “decompress” after a busy summer. And it’s watching music documentaries and a show called “Classic Albums” that used to run on VH1. (Presti actually said, “There’s a show on VH1,” to which I was praying he was going to say, “called ‘Basketball Wives’…”)

But when it finally came back around to the thing on everybody’s mind, Presti was coy as usual.

“Well as I was saying about ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ it’s a really great album,” he quipped when asked about the status of Harden’s contract negotiations.

(An aside: It should be noted because you know how people are, that Presti wasn’t using “Dark Side” as a reference to how negotiations with Harden are actually going. It was just a random little funny he was making.)

Other than that, it was more of the same on that front. Talk about “inherent challenges in the new system,” talk about “making it work for both sides,” talk about “valuing James greatly” and talk of hoping he’d be with the team long-term.

“I’ve never made a habit of going into detail about specific conversations,” Presti said. ” We’re hopeful that we can keep them as part of our organization. We understand that there are going to be some challenges that we face. I hate to be redundant, but it’s a reality, it’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. We embrace it, we accept it. I can’t tell you how that’s going to work out. I wish I could.”

The tone has never changed from Presti about Harden’s future since he started talking about it in June. It’s the same story, the same show. But of course, reporters wouldn’t be reporting if they didn’t ask and Presti wouldn’t be Presti-ing if he didn’t answer it that way. There are three things in play here: 1) Harden re-signs before Oct. 31, 2) No extension, but OKC matches next summer or 3) Harden walks. That’s it. It’s always been that simple, always been that straightforward. But as we all know, the situation is so much more complicated than that.

One assumption, made by Kendrick Perkins and others, is that once Harden gets into camp that he’ll be persuaded to stay, meaning take less.

“One thing we can’t do is put expectations on specific people and how they’re going to react to things,” he said.

Because negotiations inherently are without emotion. They have to be. It’s a business decision as both sides try and find the common ground that satisfies as much as is possible of what they want. Harden isn’t even in the room during these negotiations. It’s team and agent.

“It would be uncommon to have conversations directly with the player,” Presti said. “It’s not something we’ve done … That’s not a conversation that we’ll have with the player directly.”

But the clock ticks. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. After Oct. 31, for Presti and the Thunder will it be, “The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d have something more to say”?

In the end though, it’s still all about Money.

A few other notes and quotes:

  • Presti talked again about the Spurs series and how he felt the team really peaked there. One goal for the season it “establishing a standard of performance to call on and measure ourselves by.” That being how they played those final four games against San Antonio.
  • Why does Presti like music documentaries and that stuff? Because he said he’s intrigued by the creative process that goes along with making something like that. For instance, how a bridge can be added and the whole song makes sense. So naturally, does he take that same view of constructing a roster? “To make that connection would be taking the job too seriously. I just find enjoyment in it.,” he said.
  • Stupid observation: When Presti was talking about music, he was talking in full voice, obviously really enjoying it. When he started talking about Harden, his voice got much, much lower, almost to a mumble.
  • Another thing Presti said that’s held his interest over the summer was a journal his grandfather kept in World War II. His grandmother gave it to him and it details how his grandfather, an engineer tasked with rebuilding bridges, experience WWII and met people and did things.
  • Presti on Perk’s comments about Harden: “Well we’ve had an assistant GM opening since Rob [Hennigan] left, but I think Perk’s going to spend a little more time on the court before we move him into an office.”
  • On Perk’s thought that Harden could be peer pressure, I thought this line from Floyd’s “Time” applied here too: “Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town, waiting for someone or something to show you the way.”
  • On the team’s Finals experience: “The next challenge is to retain that, but not necessarily rely on it.”
  • On if Harden’s contract will be a distraction: “Once the season starts, the team has to focus on basketball.”
  • On KD’s movie “Thunderstruck,” Presti just said, “I think he’s a tremendous basketball player.” But he did go on to talk about KD’s diverse set of skills and was very complementary of it.
  • On the luxury tax: “I don’t feel comfortable talking about the limitations. … We have to do the right thing in the short and the long term for the organization.”
  • Presti was asked about how he’s made tough decisions in the past, one namely being the Jeff Green trade. He said very flatly, “At the end of the day, you have to do the best thing for the organization. That’s what my job is. And the day that I stop doing what’s in the best interest of the organization is the day that they should get somebody else.”
  • On KD and LeBron and the criticism of them working out together: “I don’t really pay attention to the narrative of the NBA.”
  • On the Lakers: “When you add two players like Nash and Dwight Howard in one summer, obviously that’s going to improve your chances.”
  • On Hasheem Thabeet: “Hasheem has done a nice job this summer. His conditioning is vastly improved.”
  • Presti was asked if he could have VH1 do an album of his choice for their show, what would he pick. “Oh man that’s hard. Can we go back to the negotiation questions?” he said. His answer though: Eliott Smith’s “XO” and “pretty much anything by James Brown.”