A year from now, James Harden will hit the market as a restricted free agent. The problem is: Retaining Harden and Serge Ibaka—who’s also a restricted FA in ’13—will likely put OKC into the luxury tax. Harden is keeping his options wide open—saying he will consider signing with the Suns for the ’13-14 season and beyond (Arizona Republic): “A flicker of hope for Valley basketball fans: Former Arizona State star James Harden would consider signing with the Suns if his contract expires after next season. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Of course. I love it there. My mom lives there still. So that’s definitely my second home as far as my comfort level and going to school there. But obviously, I’m with the Thunder right now and what we have is special.’ Harden and his beard enjoyed breakout seasons in 2011-12, helping Oklahoma City reach the NBA Finals. The Thunder already secured stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to long-term deals, and by 2015, those two players alone will command $35 million. This off-season, the team has a window of opportunity to extend Harden and Serge Ibaka, but league salary-cap restrictions and harsh luxury-tax penalties will make it difficult to sign both. At the least, it would require great sacrifice from the players involved. If no deal is reached, Harden would become a restricted free agent after next season. A team such as the Suns could then make it hard on Oklahoma City by signing him to a lucrative offer sheet. ‘That’s out of my hands,’ Harden said. ‘That’s not my decision. That’s the front office. I’ll let them decide that.’”