Rock­ets su­per­star’s $228 mil­lion deal the rich­est in NBA his­tory

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LAS VE­GAS — James Har­den be­came a star in Hous­ton, and now he’s ready to call the city home.

Har­den signed a four-year, “su­per­max” ex­ten­sion on Satur­day, a whop­per of a deal that guar­an­tees the 27-year-old about $228 mil­lion over the next six sea­sons and makes it the rich­est con­tract in NBA his­tory.

The ex­ten­sion alone tacks another $170 mil­lion or so — depend­ing on how the salary cap es­ca­lates — on to a con­tract that still had two more years and nearly $60 mil­lion re­main­ing. It’s a mam­moth deal be­fit­ting one of the league’s bright­est stars, which is ex­actly what “The Beard” has be­come in five sea­sons with the Rock­ets.

“Since he ar­rived in Hous­ton, James has ex­hib­ited the in­cred­i­ble work ethic, de­sire to win, and pas­sion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and tal­ented su­per­stars in the his­tory of the game,” Rock­ets owner Les­lie Alexan­der said in a state­ment.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­mit­ment he has shown to our or­ga­ni­za­tion, the city of Hous­ton, and Rock­ets fans all over the world makes him a per­fect leader in our pur­suit of another cham­pi­onship.”

The deal keeps Har­den un­der con­tract un­til the end of the 2022-23 sea­son, a life­time in the mod­ern NBA fi­nan­cial land­scape in which so many su­per­stars take short-term deals to max­i­mize their earn­ing po­ten­tial. While any­thing can hap­pen, this is about as much se­cu­rity as a player can get.

Har­den is com­ing off of his finest sea­son. Mov­ing to point guard for new coach Mike D’An­toni, Har­den av­er­aged 29.1 points, an NBA-lead­ing 11.2 as­sists and 8.1 re­bounds. He fin­ished se­cond in the MVP race to for­mer Ok­la­homa City team­mate Rus­sell West­brook.

“Hous­ton is home for me,” Har­den said. “Mr. Alexan­der has shown he is fully com­mit­ted to win­ning and my team­mates and I are go­ing to keep putting in the work to get bet­ter and com­pete for the ti­tle.”

Most im­por­tantly for the Rock­ets in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture is that the ex­ten­sion will not af­fect Hous­ton’s ag­gres­sive pur­suit of free agents this sum­mer as the Rock­ets try to make a run at the Golden State War­riors.

The Rock­ets fin­ished third in the Western Con­fer­ence reg­u­lar sea­son last year but know they have plenty of ground to make up if they hope to truly chal­lenge the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

Har­den’s do-it-all sea­son helped the Rock­ets bounce back from a mas­sively dis­ap­point­ing 2015-16 cam­paign that col­lapsed un­der the weight of chem­istry is­sues with the All-Star guard and big man Dwight Howard.

With Howard gone, the Rock­ets put Har­den at the cen­ter of ev­ery­thing they do on of­fense, and it paid off in a ma­jor way.

Hous­ton went 55-27 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and beat West­brook and the Thun­der in the first round of the Western Con­fer­ence play­offs.

Har­den seemed to run out of gas a bit in their semi­fi­nals loss to the San An­to­nio Spurs, and GM Daryl Morey has worked quickly to get him some help this sum­mer.

Morey traded for All-Star point guard Chris Paul, a bold move that gives the Rock­ets as tal­ented a back­court as any team in the league. Morey also signed rugged for­ward PJ Tucker to boost the de­fense and brought Nene back as well. And he’s not done yet. The me­chan­ics for this ex­ten­sion are new to the NBA in the lat­est ver­sion of the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment.

Har­den was named first team All-NBA, mak­ing him el­i­gi­ble for a lu­cra­tive, four-year ex­ten­sion that shows the rest of the league the Rock­ets are com­mit­ted to sta­bil­ity as they try to chal­lenge the War­riors in the West.

Morey has never been bash­ful about hunt­ing big game and Alexan­der has shown time and again that he will give his gen­eral man­ager the fi­nan­cial re­sources to go for it.

With Har­den locked up for the next six years, it’s time to go hunt­ing again.

Ja­mal Craw­ford has agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves, a source with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion told AP.

The cap-strapped Wolves only had the room ex­cep­tion left to use for the deal, worth about $4.2 mil­lion for the up­com­ing sea­son. The source spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause Craw­ford has to clear waivers be­fore sign­ing the con­tract.

The 37-year-old Craw­ford av­er­aged 12.3 points in 82

GETTY IM­AGES FILE

James Har­den of the Hous­ton Rock­ets re­acts af­ter scor­ing against the Toronto Rap­tors last year. The 27-year-old has just signed the most lu­cra­tive player con­tract in NBA his­tory.

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