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James Harden Contract Extension: Thunder Guard Forced To Choose Money Or Title Hopes

After advancing to the NBA Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award for the 2012 season and earning a gold medal as a member of Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics, it's safe to say it's been a good year for James Harden.

Now Harden, 23, reportedly wants a max contract from the Thunder before the Oct. 31 deadline for teams to sign their restricted free agents. The problem for the Thunder is that a max deal for Harden would launch the team's luxury tax to around $23 million, and create for issues for the young team.

That creates a choice for Harden that Royce Young of Daily Thunder summarized well:

Harden understands though that if he truly wants to remain with the Thunder, as he's said repeatedly, his best chance to do so will come via an extension before the deadline. Much like Ibaka did just a few weeks ago. It's his choice, it's his life, it's his money, it's his career. He's free to do what he wants to do. But he knows the pros and cons of both. Does he value an extra three, maybe four million a year over playing for a title contending team? That's the decision he's making.

The Thunder advanced to the NBA Finals during the 2011-12 season, but lost to the Miami Heat in five games. The 2012-13 season for the Thunder is set to begin on Nov. 1 against the San Antonio Spurs, one day after the deadline for the Thunder to sign restricted free agents.

For more coverage of the Thunder, head on over to Welcome to Loud City, and for all your NBA news, check out SB Nation's NBA site.