As you’re probably well aware, Oklahoma City has already made long term commitments to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They’re on the hook for $52 million in future payments to Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. As such, signing reigning NBA Sixth Man Of The Year James Harden to a $60 million extension would’ve put the Thunder in luxury tax distress, a situation they’ll now avoid with tonight’s announcement Harden has been sent to the Rockets, along with C Cole Aldrich, guards Daquean Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets. Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb will join the Thunder, with Oklahoma City receiving two first round picks (Toronto and Dallas’ protected 2013 picks, respectively) and a 2013 second round pick originally belonging to Charlotte. The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry provides further details :

The deal comes on the heels of negligible progress being made on a contract extension for Harden following nearly four months of negotiating. As a result, the Thunder parted ways with the fan favorite after stagnant talks made it clear Harden would be too much of a financial burden to keep.

If no deal was reached on an extension by Wednesday’s midnight Eastern deadline, Harden would have become a restricted free agent next summer. Houston is believed to now be ready to ink Harden to the maximum-allowable contract that Harden has long been believed to covet.

A report by Yahoo! Sports on Saturday said Harden recently turned down a four-year extension worth roughly $52 million. The report also was the latest to say Harden is pushing for a max deal, expected to be roughly $60 million over four years.