|Kendrick Perkins is banking on emotions to play into James Harden's decision. (Getty Images)|
Kendrick Perkins: NBA tough guy, supreme scowler and physical enforcer. Also, a glass-half-full kind of optimist.
The major question hovering over his team is the future of James Harden, and Perkins, speaking to the Oklahoman, is convinced an extension is coming soon.
“We're doing good. We're making positive steps going forward,” Perkins said of the organization's offseason. “We got coach (Scott) Brooks locked in. We got Serge (Ibaka) locked in. And we're getting close with James, and we're getting close to keeping our unit together. And we're still hungry.
“Once James gets here it's nothing to be said,” Perkins said. “He'll see his family and that's all he needs. So once he sees everybody's faces that's enough said.”
Perkins is the kind of guy who is almost unreasonably loyal to teammates and his team. He believes in brotherhood, and the idea of someone jumping ship for money instead of staying part of something good probably doesn't compute with him.
What the Thunder face is well documented, but there's a deadline looming. If Oklahoma City doesn't extend Harden before Oct. 31, he becomes a restricted free agent and is all but guaranteed to receive a max offer sheet from someone. Which would mean the Thunder would be forced to match it or watch their Sixth Man of the Year walk away.
Harden has made it especially clear that his preference is to remain in Oklahoma City, and if that's the case, his best chance is by signing an extension. Because again: He's getting max money on the open market. So if the Thunder have any hope of getting him signed for less than that, it would have to come via an extension.
That's the move Serge Ibaka made in inking his four-year extension with OKC. By not allowing himself to test the open market, he likely took a little less money but afforded himself the opportunity to remain with the Thunder. Harden obviously understands that's his situation, too.
What's kind of ironic about Perkins' comments, though, is that if Harden is re-signed, it could signal the end of Perkins' time in Oklahoma City. One of the obvious plans for the Thunder to avoid major luxury-tax issues is to use the amnesty provision on Perkins in 2015 or 2016. Cut him and his nearly $9 million off the books and the Thunder could rescue themselves from a stiff penalty. A potential twist to the story there.
Training camp opens for the Thunder on Oct. 1. Perkins and the rest of the team will have 30 days to tug on Harden's heart and hope he sees OKC is the place to be. Otherwise, the questions will continue.