The Russell Westbrook-James Harden reunion tour may be canceled.
Westbrook was traded to the Rockets before the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, reuniting the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates in Houston under head coach Mike D’Antoni. With a 4-1 series loss to the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, it was another unceremonious end to a Houston season.
That leads to Westbrook’s future, and, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Westbrook wants out of Houston, citing the team’s culture and his displeasure with his role as two of main factors for wanting a trade.
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Per Charania: “Westbrook has informed team officials that he has been uneasy about the team’s accountability and culture, and wants to join a team where he can have a role similar to his prior, floor-general role in Oklahoma City.”
There was certainly cause for pause prior to Westbrook being traded to Houston: As a ball-dominant guard, Westbrook’s fit within D’Antoni’s offense seemed like a decent enough one, but considering that Harden is also a ball-dominant player, it didn’t exactly work out as well as they’d hoped. Westbrook did average 27 points, 7.0 assists and 7.9 rebounds during the 2019-20 season, but clearly the 32-year-old was dissatisfied with his role.
Westbrook is owed $131,433,438 over the next three years of his deal, with a player option worth over $47 million for the 2022-2023 season that likely will present a big barrier in any trade talks.
While D’Antoni’s offense is certainly dependent on guard play, Houston has gotten that in years past, but Harden has been unable to make it work: Just a year after trading Chris Paul for Westbrook, Harden remains “locked in” on Houston, per Charania, but will be looking for another guard to play alongside for 2020-21 — and Harden still has say in personnel and roster decisions.
The Rockets also bid adieu to longtime general manager Daryl Morey in October, parting with the man who was the architect of the Rockets. Also departing is D’Antoni, who was replaced with longtime NBA assistant Stephen Silas.
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