EDMOND — Heading into training camp, the biggest question surrounding Oklahoma City is the contract status of Sixth Man of the Year James Harden. If the 23-year old has not signed an extension by Oct. 31, he will become a restricted free agent.
Harden’s confident it won’t come to that.
“That’s why I’m not worried about it,” Harden said Monday. “I have confidence in my agent and the organization to get it done. They know how important it is. I’m sure it will get done.”
Harden said he is willing to take less money than market value in order to stay in Oklahoma City and that making sacrifices for the good of the team is what the Thunder are about.
Still, saying it and doing it are two different things. NBA success is still about living in the moment.
“Everything is going to work itself for the best I think,” Kevin Durant said. “James is a key part to our team … I’m excited about the first day of camp and having James here.”
Buffed up: Russell Westbrook turned a few heads when he showed up to camp with at least an extra 10 pounds of muscle packed on his 6-3 frame.
Westbrook wouldn’t be specific on exactly how much weight he gained, except to say it was a few pounds.
“Russell is a strong and explosive as any point guard in this league,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s good muscle.”
New workout partner: Durant caused a bit of a controversy during the offseason when he and Miami forward LeBron James worked out together. Some found it odd he could be good friends with such a professional rival.
“A lot of people were worried about me and LeBron working out,” Durant said. “But it was just one day. I’m a competitive guy. I just wanted to work out. I work out with anybody. I worked out with Kobe Bryant. I worked out with Carmelo Anthony. I just wanted to work out and get better. He was the first guy who called me. I said ‘Why not?’”
“With him working out with LeBron, I have no problem with that,” he said. “You get better by playing against the best players.”
Crowded backcourt: Thunder GM Sam Presti. announced Wednesday the team had signed guard Walker Russell to a contract.
Russell (6-0, 170 pounds), appeared in 28 games last season with the Detroit Pistons and averaged 3.0 points and 2.1 assists in 12.8 minutes per outing.
In the past six years he has played professionally in the Dominican Republic (2011), China (2011), Germany (2010-11), Puerto Rico (2010), Bulgaria (2009-10), Spain (2008) and the Czech Republic (2006-07).
The Thunder have 11 guards on their training camp roster.
Animal Kingdom: The Oklahoma City Zoo named its Red Panda after Durant. Kaydee was brought into the world the same day the Thunder earned a spot in the NBA Finals.
Durant didn’t know about it until media members brought it to his attention.
“Thank you,” Durant responded. “That’s a first. Feels good.”
When Harden was asked what animal he’d want named after him, he said he didn’t know but it would have to be hairy.
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org