The Oklahoma City Thunder and free-agent in waiting James Harden appear ready to begin the NBA regular season without resolving Harden's contract extension and future with the franchise.
With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka tying up much of the OKC's salary cap for the coming years, the Thunder are putting the new NBA collective bargaining agreement to the test by trying to fit Harden into the cap while still filling out the rest of the roster and minimizing luxury tax penalties.
A max contract of 4 years and $60 million is likely waiting for Harden from another team if the Thunder allow him to become a restricted free agent, but according to ESPN's Marc Stein the Thunder are trying to secure Harden without paying max money:
For the record, tho, plenty of pessimism still circulating about Harden & OKC striking deal by WED cause OKC insisting on deal less than max— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) October 27, 2012
Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year last season, averaged 17 points, four assists and four rebounds off the bench for Oklahoma City.