THE ANGELS — James Harden has been a Clipper for a little over two months but the point guard is happy and wants to keep Los Angeles’ core together.
“I thought the same thing last year, last team I was on,” Harden said of Philadelphiabefore his relationship soured with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. “That’s why I did all those sacrifices.
“But I’m here, home. We have an opportunity. I want to be able to keep the core together for a few years and I haven’t had those opportunities the last few years. So things are going well and I’m happy.”
Harden, 34, is under contract and cannot negotiate a new deal with the Clippers until after the NBA Finals.
Kawhi Leonard signed a three-year, $153 million contract extension last Wednesday and said he took less than what he was eligible for in hopes that the Clippers can keep the core of the team together.
Meanwhile, Paul George — who led the Clippers against OKC with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals — is eligible for a contract extension.
Leonard and George entered the season eligible for a maximum extension of four years and $223 million, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. George has said he hopes to remain a Clipper.
Since losing six straight games after the Harden trade (five of those with Harden on the floor), the Clippers have gone 23-7. Their 18-4 mark since the beginning of December is best in the NBA.
Harden is averaging 16.9 points, 8.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds with his new team. Harden, along with Leonard, George and Russell Westbrookis from the Los Angeles area. All four stars have stated they want to win a championship at home with the Clippers.
George has a $48.7 million player option for next season. Westbrook has a player option for next season of $4.02 million.
When asked last week about trying to keep George and Harden for the foreseeable futureLeonard explained part of his rationale for signing his extension.
“With the conversation that I have with them about it, I think for the most part everybody is coming back,” Leonard said Wednesday night. “So with me signing an extension, I think it gives us a chance to sign both of those players.”