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James Harden wants to stay with the Nets but looks to be free agent

Nets guard James Harden controls the ball against

Nets guard James Harden controls the ball against the Timberwolves during the first half of an NBA preseason game at Barclays Center on Thursday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

MILWAUKEE — In August, Nets general manager Sean Marks signed Kevin Durant to a four-year contract extension worth $198 million and predicted that he would sign James Harden and Kyrie Irving to extensions in training camp. But the deadline for those extensions passed at midnight Monday without a deal for either player.

Irving obviously is not with the Nets because he has refused to comply with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, butHarden previously has indicated he would like to remain with the Nets. However, it made financial sense for him to wait to sign an extension next summer as a free agent when he will be eligible for a record four-year deal worth $227 million.

Following the Nets’ season-opening loss to the Bucks, Harden was asked about bypassing the extension, and he reiterated his commitment to the Nets. "Honestly, I’m just focused on getting healthy, getting my body right and then preparing for a great season," Harden said. "The contract, the money is going to be there.

"I’m not planning on leaving this organization and the situation that we have . . I love it here, myself and [owner] Joe [ Tsai] and Clara [Tsai] and Sean and the front office and Steve [ Nash]. From top to bottom the communication has been unbelievable, it’s been amazing. I feel at home. For me individually I just want to focus on this year and that’s it."

After the game, Harden was informed that he was named to the NBA’s 75th anniversary team, honoring the top 75 players in league history along with teammate Kevin Durant. Needless to say, he was thrilled.

"Ever?" Harden asked about the top 75. "Wow. Where I come from, man, even just to be in the NBA was like a far-fetched dream. And then not just making it but sustaining it was a different type of mountain you’ve got to climb. And then to be one of the best basketball players is a whole different mountain . . . So I’m just blessed to be a part of that list."

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