Harden, Maynor Strengthen Bond On, Off Court

Flashback to two months ago, July 5 to be exact, when the Thunder opened the Orlando Summer League against the Boston Celtics.

It was the fourth quarter of a tight game, the Thunder had possession and players were scrambling after a loose ball. Just as Eric Maynor gathered himself with the ball in his hands on the right wing, he tossed a lob pass at the rim for James Harden, who was already headed that way after beating his man with a backdoor cut. Harden met the ball at the rim and dunked it in for an alley-oop.

The play looked scripted, like both Maynor and Harden knew all along where one another would be on the play. Afterward, Maynor flashed a wide grin and described it simply as, “We’ve got that little connection going.”

Two months later, that connection has only gotten stronger, and not just on the court.

Maynor and Harden were a handful of players putting in a good workout at the team’s practice facility on Wednesday, and as Harden was leaving the building he shouted to Maynor, “What are you up to?”

They’ve probably asked each other that question countless times this summer.

No, they’re not connected at the hip, but Maynor and Harden are more than just teammates. Like a lot of their Thunder teammates, they’re good friends away from the court, too. While that’s not much of a newsflash, knowing that Maynor and Harden factored each other into their summer plans should be refreshing for Thunder fans.

Strengthening their bond both on and off the court was a priority of theirs.

“I think it’s going to help us big-time, especially since we come off the bench together,” Maynor said on Wednesday.

They had already spent a chunk of the summer together when the team convened at the Orlando Summer League, where they continued to develop their on-court chemistry. And they’ve done the same in the months since, mostly working out in Harden’s hometown of Los Angeles and playing pickup games against fellow NBA players at the well-known Hangar Athletics Xchange.

Back during Summer League, Harden said his on-court chemistry with Maynor was “a lot different than last year,” which began to take shape toward the end of the regular season. And the two really hit it off once the Thunder acquired Maynor from Utah two nights before Christmas; the Virginia Commonwealth product spent Christmas at Harden’s house.

As rookie guards who played together, no less, Harden and Maynor could relate to each other on several levels because they went through most of the same highs and lows. Maynor led all rookies in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.13 a game while Harden averaged 9.9 points off the bench.

While in L.A. this summer they’ve trained with head coach Scott Brooks and assistant coaches Rex Kalamian and Brian Keefe.

Asked what they’ve been working on, Maynor said, “Just creating for each other, having a feel for each other how we play. We had a good feel for each other last year but we got a better understanding of how we play now. I think that’s going to be a big key for us next year.”

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