Russell Westbrook and James Harden Spotlight Harden's Weird Beard

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 16, 2012

I've always wondered whether James Harden found his own beard amusing. Does he grow it for the comfort? Does he sport it for the novelty? Does he just hate shaving?

We may never learn the answers to those burning questions, but we do know that he can flaunt a sense of humor about the dust buster. In this Foot Locker ad, Russell Westbrook tests Harden's ability to replace his gear at a moment's notice. The ad ends with Westbrook squirting mustard on James' beard, which Harden immediately replaces with another.

James Harden is up for a contract extension that would begin next year. There has been plenty of speculation about whether the Thunder could afford to re-sign him and whether he would even want to re-sign in Oklahoma City. Harden is from the Los Angeles area, and it might make sense to explore options closer to home.

Then again, Westbrook is also from L.A., and he signed a large extension to stay in OKC.

This advertisement is a fun time capsule, because one man's decision might impact the other's. That Russell Westbrook inked such a large deal decreases the likelihood of Harden making as much.

The Thunder are small-market team, and a frugal one at that. Next season, the Thunder will be at roughly $62 million in committed salary, a little over the $58 million salary cap set for 2012. Next year, James Harden could probably make "max" money on the open market, as much as $20 million per season. 

Oklahoma City may need something of a hometown discount, some creative accounting or massive funds to retain its off guard.

There was a lot of mockery based on the idea that Harden's finals performance killed his max contract status, but that notion is more laughable than the mockery. Harden is one of the game's best 2-guards, a sparsely talented position. He posted the same win share average as Kevin Durant last season, due to a hyper-efficient game based on threes and free throws.

He's a top commodity, and one NBA Finals doesn't change this. 

Harden has made pro-OKC overtures (via ESPN) this summer, and he is close friends with Kevin Durant. Their excellent comedic rapport was recently on display in a Jimmy Fallon appearance in which they celebrated recent gold medals. 

Harden is so often seen with KD that it's almost surprising to see him in an ad with Westbrook. If all breaks well for the Thunder, they'll be seeing all three together for a long time to come.