There’s been speculation throughout the offseason that the OKC Thunder wouldn’t be able to keep rising star James Harden going forward — Harden is expected to receive max contract offers from Thunder rivals when his current deal expires — but teammate Kendrick Perkins (who, apparently, moonlights as an NBA reporter) claims that OKC will find a way to retain the bearded one. Per the Oklahoman: “Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, speaking after an appearance at a Thunder Fit event at a local middle school, said the two sides are ‘getting close’ on a deal that would keep the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Oklahoma City. ‘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.’ Harden is eligible to receive an extension of up to four years. Harden is believed to be seeking a contract worth the maximum allowable amount, which could be $58 million. But with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook already inked to maximum deals, as well as Ibaka and Perkins recently signing high-dollar extensions, the Thunder might not be able to afford to keep Harden, with more severe penalties for teams that exceed the tax level set to kick in prior to the 2013-14 season. If Harden doesn’t sign a deal by Oct. 31, he will become a restricted free agent next summer, which would allow him to hit the open market but gives the Thunder the right to match any deal he might be offered. ‘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.'”
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