James Harden likes Phoenix, and that’s enough to get excited about

Posted by on July 28th, 3:31 pm

The NBA is a league where superstardom is not only needed to win, but needed to boast about relevance. Or at least, it’s used to boast about a pseudo-relevance.

Like the Phoenix Suns’ moves this offseason or don’t, it’s hard to give this team a face. The front office knows this, and after watching helplessly as the New Orleans Hornets matched Eric Gordon’s contract, the Suns must look past this free agency period for finding that face of the franchise.

Let the speculation waft across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley, in London covering the 2012 Olympics, dug for hints that former Arizona State and current Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden would consider returning to the Valley to play for the Suns.

“I love it there,” Harden told Bickley. “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.”

OK, so we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The wildly-talented Harden will be a restricted free agent after next season, and that’s if he doesn’t come to terms on a contract extension. With the Thunder grappling to hang onto its young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Harden, it seems likely one of the latter two will be on other rosters come 2013-14.

Naturally, fans in Phoenix would hope that Harden brings his versatile, smooth style back to a city he’s familiar with, and that all depends on how Oklahoma City decides to invest its money. Do the Thunder keep the bearded assassin to create the best 1-2-3 trio in the NBA, or do they allow Harden to go — you’d think they will trade him for assets — and keep the shot-blocking Ibaka? Maybe they sign both and hope they can fill in the roster with veterans on the cheap, as has the Miami Heat.

Talent-wise, it’s hard to see the Thunder letting Harden leave, even if that restricts them to being a perimeter-oriented team.

Either way, this is all speculation. Yet Harden’s comments are important not in that the Suns have a good chance at signing him so much as they reflect a point that PBO Lon Babby has made often this offseason.

Phoenix can attract quality talent, at least to a degree.

Historically, they haven’t exactly been the masters of free agent signings in recent times, but that doesn’t mean the Suns haven’t been able to acquire elite NBA players. Many of Phoenix’s best players have come from the draft (Dan Majerle, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion) or via trade (Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway).

Steve Nash’s free agency signing was special in that he’d already played for the organization. In a similar light, Gordon wanted to come to Phoenix after a solid pitch from the team, but his younger brother attending ASU probably had a great deal of significance, too. Like Nash and Gordon, Harden already has connections to the Valley of the Sun.

And like Gordon, it’s still to be determined whether Harden can live up to being a legitimate elite player in the league rather than a Joe Johnson-like, tier-two star — this is where we talk about a team having pseudo-relevance.

Truthfully, it’ll be shocking if the Suns will even have a chance to make a run at the former Sun Devil. He’s not going to throw any options out the window at this premature point of figuring out his future, as Royce Young writes.

Still, you’ve got to like reading those comments if you’re a Suns fan. The fact that these players who are familiar with Phoenix want to consider the Suns is a sign that maybe one day they’ll make the free agency catch to return to prominence in the post-Nash era.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Free Agency · Phoenix Suns

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Russell // Jul 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    This is great News!! I just read the story on cbs Sportsline and came straight here. This opens up things for Phoenix. I think we can move 2-3 of our first round picks that we have over the next 2 years to acquire him next summer via S&T.

    OPTION 1 (most realistic )
    Ideally this is what I would like to see happen. Package Morris and Marshall (last two first rounders we drafted) and 2 first round picks for Josh Smith in February.

    OR Option 2 (less realistic)
    Package 3 first rounders plus Gortat, Marshall and Morris for Dwight Howard (if agrees to come to play with Harden and Beasley).

    AND Step 2 would be to acquire James Harden in the Summer by giving OKC:

    2 first rounders + Scola who makes only 4mil a year, and would be the inside scoring presents everyone in the NBA believes OKC needs. OKC has zero inside scorers.

    This would give us a starting line up of Either

    C- Gortat
    PF- Josh Smith
    SF – Beasley
    SG- Harden
    PG – Dragic


    C – Dwight Howard
    PF – Beasley
    SF – Free Agent/Dudley/Wesley Johnson
    SG – Harden
    PG – Dragic

    Either scenario we would be much more competitive ! Obviously with Dwight we may be monsters!

  • 2 Russell // Jul 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Everybody go on Twitter and start the #JHarden2Phx2013 @JHarden13

    Lets show him how much we want him on the Suns. Spread the word on brightsideofthesun website and AZcentral

    I’m officially starting the campaign!

  • 3 sun also rises // Jul 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    lolol. I’m just crazy enough to do that Russell. This is the first time in a while that I feel like a Laker fan does 365 days a year…..

    “Such and such was at LAX last week that must mean they’re going to leave their team in 2016 and come running to play here!” haha.

  • 4 Jeremiah // Jul 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Josh Smith is going to be an unrestricted free agent next year. Makes more sense to me to wait until free agency and make him our top priority since he is unrestricted. Then assuming OKC hasn’t already made a deal with Harden prior to free agency we would go all in on Harden and hope we can pry him from OKC. Easier said than done, but would be amazing if the Suns pulled it off.

  • 5 Russell // Jul 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Yes, Josh Smith is unrestricted but that means anyone can sign him, not just us. By trading for him we will be the only team able to offer him a 5 year deal, which guarantees that he will be a Sun.

  • 6 Edward // Jul 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    C- Gortat
    PF- Josh Smith
    SF – Beasley
    SG- Harden
    PG – Dragic
    C – Dwight Howard
    PF – Beasley
    SF – Free Agent/Dudley/Wesley Johnson
    SG – Harden
    PG – Dragic

  • 7 D.P. // Jul 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I’ll pass on josh smith. Trading for dwite is somthing I think about everyday lol. If I was the front office I would jump on that. I mean at least make orlando an offer. And if we get harden in free agency I’ll be loving this team!

  • 8 PennyAnd1 // Jul 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm


    You actually want that whining cry-baby Howard in Phoenix? As good as Howard is, I wouldn’t want him wearing a Suns uniform. I think Gortat & Scola will suffice. Besides Morris is a rising star, so trading him would be a bad idea as well as trading Kendall Marshall who in my perspective will become another John Stockton in time. Besides I think the starting line-up we have now is pretty solid with the exception of shooting guard, although Beasley is still a question mark.

  • 9 D.P. // Jul 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Also I only would want him if he wanted us back

  • 10 Russell // Jul 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    @Penny Kendall Marshall becoming John Stockton is a long shot. And I mean loooooooooooooooong shot. I rather have Howard.

    Howard would love it in Phx! we just need to put players around him. With Howard/Harden/Beasley/Dragic we would be contenders for many years.

  • 11 Mr. Consumer // Jul 29, 2012 at 3:33 am

    You’re kidding? Did you expect Harden to offer anything but a politically correct response? What a fluffy group of words and conjecture.

  • 12 joey // Jul 29, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Marshall is more like mark Jackson than john Stockton. I don’t think we can get Howard and I certainly wouldn’t gut the roster to get him. With all the picks and cap room we have for 2013 there are plenty of ways we can go about acquiring a “franchise player”. I like Josh Smith and harden a lot. But are they going to get us a ring? Probably not. We’d just be a very fun team to watch but still come up short of a title. Just like the Nash era and Barkley era. I think we need to get a game changing player and the only one available is Howard. So the suns have only 2 options in 2013. Either trade a plethora of young talent like Marshall, Morris, and draft picks for Howard, or stand pat and see how these guys develope, sign a few more solid fa like harden and smith, and hope we can get lucky in the draft to land a franchise changing talent. Getting Howard would be a big gamble but if the suns want to win a ring in the next 5-8yrs then it might be worth the risk. Who knows. I just don’t know if Howard would be willing to commit long term here without another Allstar on the team. But so far babby has done an outstanding job this offseason and the future looks very bright in the desert. Thank GOD for that!

  • 13 Lloyd I. Cadle // Jul 29, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Yes, Phoenix is a great place for free agents to want to play here. Notice how many pro players in all sports make their home here.

    During basketball season, almost no rain, 70 degree weather, golf and if they are into it, nightlife in Scottsdale. And you don’t have all of the gang banging and porn shops of L.A.

  • 14 Scott // Jul 29, 2012 at 8:22 am

    We’ll have to give Marshall some time to develop. When he started hitting shots in that final game of Summer League, he looked a lot better. Couple that with some driving around in the paint before passing, improved rebounding, and some work on defense with Elston Turner, and he could be a very interesting PG.

  • 15 JT's Hoops Blog // Jul 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    A Harden/Dragic backcourt does sound intriguing. I say that the Suns’ FO should pull out the stops to get him and do like the Houston Rockets did in the case of Jeremy Lin. Offer a contract that’s so front loaded that the tax implications would scare Clay Bennet and his cronies away.

  • 16 Phoenixsuns PH // Jul 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Acquiring James Harden seems unlikely. There are other notable SG in 2013 that the FO should consider. Monta Ellis, Iggy and Demar Derozan

  • 17 Ty-Sun // Jul 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Why not wait until the end of the season to start thinking about Harden? He did not play well in the finals and as a sixth man he plays a lot of his mins against backups. I do like Harden but so far he hasn’t proven to me that he’s worth a max contract yet. Harden could be a great addition to the Suns next year but he’s not “the answer”.

    I like the team we already have. It has a lot of potential. I admit that it could fold up like a cheap lawn chair or it could be a dark horse team this year. But it’s way to early to be thinking about next year and Harden.

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