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NBA Rumors: James Harden 'Open' to Playing for the Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 30:  James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reaches for a loose ball with Josh Childress #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on March 30, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Thunder defeated the Suns 116-98.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IJuly 28, 2012

Looks like the Phoenix Suns might be in play for a consolation prize after they failed to land Eric Gordon this past season.

Super sixth man James Harden, who is with Team USA in London right now, is reportedly "open" to play in the desert long-term.

Via Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic, the bearded shooting guard had this to say when asked about Phoenix as a future destination:

Yeah. Of course. I love it there. My mom lives there still. So that's definitely my second home as far as my comfort level and going to school there. But obviously, I'm with the Thunder right now and what we have is special.

While Harden did not say that the Suns are his first choice, with Oklahoma City being the prohibitive favorite, the Thunder will need to make a decision on whether to sign Serge Ibaka or James Harden. If both sign maximum contract offer sheets, it seems unlikely that the small-market team can retain Harden and Ibaka. Besides, it would really cut into the team's cap to do so.

Personally, I think it is more important for OKC to retain Ibaka, just because he is one of the best defensive players in the league. The Thunder do not really need another elite offensive player, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant already signed long-term.

Having an enforcer in the paint like Ibaka, though, is important due to the lack of serviceable big men in the league today.

Don't be surprised now if Harden gets a maximum contract from the Phoenix Suns next season.

Harden might have played himself into earning more money, but he might have also given the Thunder pause. Just a few weeks ago, Harden told ESPN that he would play for less money because "something special" was going on in Oklahoma City. But if he was all-in for OKC, why say that he would be comfortable somewhere else?

The summer of 2013 is still a year away, but talks are already heating up. Stay tuned to see if the Thunder can retain both Harden and Ibaka or if they need to choose one or the other. 

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