James Harden signs 4-year, $118 million extension with Houston Rockets
According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the star shooting guard will earn over $118 million over four years. Prior to the new contract, Harden would have become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, but the extension locks Harden into another year in Houston.
Sources: Over the next four years, Harden will now earn: $26.5M, $28.3M, $30.4M and a player option for $32.7M in 2019-'20.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 9, 2016
With the departure of Dwight Howard, who often seemed to butt heads with Harden, the Rockets are more than ever The Beard’s team. After a stellar 56-26 season in 2014-15, good enough for the second seed in the Western Conference and a Conference Finals appearance, the rocky relationship of Harden and Howard seemed to take center stage in 2015-16. The Rockets were only able to sneak into the playoffs as a 41-41 eight seed last season, and didn’t make it out of the first round.
With Houston essentially putting a franchise player label on Harden, he’ll need to step up his game to bring Clutch City back into title contention. The four-time all-star did average career highs in points (29.0), rebounds (6.1), and assists (7.5) last season, but his defensive mistakes continued to make headlines and draw the wrath of the internet. According to Basketball Reference, Harden had a -0.4 defensive plus-minus rating this past season. While not the worst mark of career (-1.1 in 2011-12 with Oklahoma City), the negative rating is certainly a step backward from his positive 1.0 in 2014-15.
With recent free agent signings Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, the Rockets are slowly building around Harden to gear up for next season, though it will ultimately be the play of The Beard which the Rockets live and die by.
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