By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
POSTED: Oct 31, 2012 3:52 PM ET
As expected, the Houston Rockets beat Wednesday's deadline for signing Class of 2009 draftees to extensions by giving newly acquired guard James Harden a five-year deal for the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The total amount will not be known until the salary cap number for the 2013-14 season is set next summer, but using this year's cap as a guide, Harden would get just under $80 million.
The Rockets acquired Harden, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, from Oklahoma City on Saturday in a multi-player deal after the Thunder were unable to reach a deal with Harden. Houston sent guards Kevin Martin and rookie Jeremy Lamb, along with two future first-round picks, to Oklahoma City for Harden, center Cole Aldrich, guard Daequan Cook and forward Lazar Haywood.
Harden was seeking a similar max deal from the Thunder, but Oklahoma City could only offer him four years; the Thunder had already used their "designated player" slot, which runs five years, on All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. The Thunder could have given Harden up to $60 million for four years, but topped out at $53 million.
Harden will now team with Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik to form the new core of a Rockets team trying to get back to the playoffs.