James Harden Says He's Focused on Winning Title with Nets, Not Contract Extension

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 29, 2021

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 19: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 2, Game 7 on June 19, 2021 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Possibly extending his contract with the Brooklyn Nets isn't James Harden's primary concern.

"I'm just taking my time with it," the nine-time All-Star told ESPN's Malika Andrews. "You know, I think over the course of my career I've never been a free agent before. ... I think this season I just want to focus on winning the championship."

Malika Andrews @malika_andrews

James Harden, in part, on his contract extension: “I'm just taking my time with it. You know, I think over the course of my career I've never been a free agent before… I think this season I just want to focus on winning the championship.”<br><br>Full <a href="https://twitter.com/SportsCenter?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SportsCenter</a> conversation: <a href="https://t.co/8lQQTYoyyE">pic.twitter.com/8lQQTYoyyE</a>

Harden could become a free agent next summer if he declines a $47.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season.

Kevin Durant pledged his future to the organization by agreeing to a four-year, $194.2 million extension in August. Harden and Kyrie Irving, who can also opt out next summer, haven't made the same commitment yet.

"I just wanted to be here," Durant told reporters at Brooklyn's media day. "I thought it was the perfect timing for me to be so. We all three have talked about playing together for a long time, but their decisions are on their time."

During his final year with the Golden State Warriors, the 2013-14 MVP showed how the impending free agency of a top star can become a source of strife within the locker room.

Granted, Golden State still reached the 2019 NBA Finals and may have beaten the Toronto Raptors were it not for Durant's Achilles tendon tear.

The dynamics between the Warriors then and the Nets now are far from parallel, though.

To some extent, Durant felt like an interloper in the Bay Area who wasn't going to generate the same kind of reverence within the fanbase that Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green received.

Harden, on the other hand, joined the Nets as they're still chasing a championship. And while the pair of Durant and Irving were already on the roster, they hadn't been there long enough to build up the equity Golden State's original Big Three possessed.

All of that is to say that questions about Harden's long-term future in Brooklyn are unlikely to be a persistent source of speculation like they were with Durant and the Warriors in 2018-19.

The 2017-18 MVP probably isn't jeopardizing his earning potential by delaying any extension. It's difficult to envision the series of events that would see him fail to receive a supermax offer from the Nets or a max contract from another team next offseason.