Harden and Suns have mutual interest, but future homecoming isn't likely with Thunder still in picture.
By RANDY HILLFS Arizona
It has always seemed like a long shot, but the prospect of King James working for the
Phoenix Suns remains little more than a full-court heave.
For the record, we’re not referring to the notion of
LeBron James taking his talents and restored legacy to South Mountain. No, the James we’re referencing is Harden, the former Arizona State star who is hauling last season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy into the final year of his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Although many Suns fans are hoping the small-market revenue streams in OKC make it too dicey for the Thunder to pay Harden whatever his market value becomes, exhaling continues to be our recommendation.
True, during his European tour with Team USA, Harden did tell the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro that playing for the Suns could be really swell. Unfortunately, despite OKC’s recent big-money commitment to Serge Ibaka (teamed up with huge deals for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and relatively big loot for Kendrick Perkins), general manager Sam Presti said the plan is/was to keep Harden.
Here’s what Presti offered in a recent interview with the Boston Globe:
"We’ll be open in saying that there are a lot of inherent challenges this organization faces as a result of the new CBA. “With that said, we also maintained that we’re going to figure out a way to build a team that’s competitive within the new system and capable of (competing for championships). Nothing changes in that respect.
"We’ll have some tough decisions in terms of being a good team and a team that’s enjoyed some level of flexibility. We need to work with James in hopes of keeping him with the team.
"I don’t want to speak for James or any of our players, but he knows how much we think of him. With any situation like this, it’s a matter of finding balance that works for both of us."
And here’s what Harden bestowed upon OKC fans in a recent chat with a reporter from the Daily Thunder:
"I love the Thunder. I’m excited to be here. I think we’ve definitely grown a brotherhood. So, hopefully, I definitely want to be in Oklahoma."
Hopefully for Suns fans who want Harden in Phoenix, nothing is definite.
But if OKC decides it can’t afford Harden, his move to Phoenix wouldn’t exactly be definite, either, as the Thunder probably would try to move James in a sign-and-trade.
SING OF HONOR?
Former Suns great Charles Barkley has offered recent proof that a broken golf swing may not be the least of his gifts. Remember, it’s all relative.
While the Suns were busy overhauling their roster this summer, a couple of castaways remain marooned in free agency.
Small forward Josh Childress, who was handed an amnesty card as a means for Phoenix to slide Luis Scola (another amnesty baby) onto its payroll, continues waiting for work. According to recent reports, the Washington Wizards could be interested in J-Chill.
Also waiting for work is swingman Michael Redd, whose post-knee-surgery (two of 'em) resurrection had a decent run last season with the Suns. Redd was considered a potential target of the shooting-guard-seeking Chicago Bulls a few weeks ago, but nothing materialized. Other teams recently listed as interested in Redd: the Wizards, Grizzlies, Nuggets and Thunder.
Mickael Pietrus, who was jettisoned out of town just as the post-lockout season was preparing to launch, also remains unemployed. Pietrus, who played for the Boston Celtics last season, reportedly has been talking with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Having publicly committed to not playing under a league-minimum contract, Pietrus still may have to wait a while longer.