Thunder trade Harden to Rockets

THE Oklahoma City Thunder traded last year’s Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets after a failed negotiation on the star guard’s contract extension.

The Rockets sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and future draft considerations to the Thunder for Harden. The Rockets will also get Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook.

Houston also sent two 2013 first-round picks (from Dallas and Toronto) to Oklahoma City, as well as a 2013 second-round pick (via Charlotte). The Thunder will receive the Toronto pick this year if it’s slotted Nos. 4-14. That pick also is top-three protected in 2014, top-two protected in 2015 and top-one protected in 2016.

Harden rejected a four-year offer that would have paid him a base salary of $53 million to $54 million, league sources said. That offer would have pushed OKC’s payroll to $95 million, and Thunder officials weren’t willing to go any higher.

The Thunder are already paying franchise stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on maximum contracts. The trade breaks up OKC’s young core, which carried the franchise into last season’s NBA Finals. The Thunder agreed to a four-year contract extension worth about $50 million with forward Serge Ibaka after the season.

Harden, 23, averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season. Noli Cruz

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