Nets guard James Harden was eligible for a contract extension this offseason, but had to get something done by October 18. Since Monday’s deadline passed without a new deal, Harden’s next opportunity to sign a new contract will come during the 2022 offseason. At that point, he could either pick up his player option for 2022/23 and potentially negotiate a extension, or turn down that option in order to become a free agent.
Although the Nets had hoped to extend Harden this offseason and won’t be able to complete a long-term deal with him during the season, the nine-time All-Star says the club has “nothing to worry about,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details.
“I love it here, myself and (team owners) Joe (Tsai) and Clara (Wu Tsai) and (general manager) Sean (Marks) and the front office and (alternate governor Oliver Weisberg) and (head coach) Steve (Nash),” Harden said. “From top to bottom, the communication has been unbelievable, it’s been amazing. I feel at home. It’s nothing to worry about. For me individually, I just want to focus on this year and that’s it.”
Nets fans may take Harden’s comments with a grain of salt, given that he’s less than a year removed from forcing his last team to trade him. However, there’s reason to believe the 32-year-old is being genuine — it will be more favorable financially to wait until next year to sign a new contract than it would have been to extend his deal this year.
If Harden had agreed to an extension with the Nets by Monday’s deadline, he could’ve tacked on three years and $161.1MM to the two years and $91.7MM left on his current contract, for a total of $252.8MM over five years, taking him through the 2025/26 season.
If Harden waits until next year and picks up his 2022/23 player option, he’ll be able to tack on four years and $222.8MM to his $47.4MM option salary, taking him through ’26/27. Combined with his 2021/22 salary ($44.3MM), that would work out to $314.5MM over the next six years, increasing his overall payday and giving him an extra year of security. That would be Harden’s best path to maximizing his earnings, even moreso than opting out next summer and signing a brand-new five-year contract with the Nets.
While Harden may not publicly cite those financial considerations as a primary factor in his decision, it’s probably safe to assume he’s thinking about them. If Brooklyn has a disappointing 2021/22 season, maybe he’ll reconsider his long-term commitment to the franchise, but for now, Harden’s decision to put off an extension shouldn’t be a cause for any concern.
“I don’t plan on leaving this organization and the situation that we have,” he said on Tuesday, per Youngmisuk. “So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship. The contract and all that stuff will bear itself out, but my focus is going to be locked on this season.”