More than the fate of this season will be on the line for the Rockets tonight as they face the Thunder in Game 7 of their first-round series, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Houston is in danger of wasting another year of James Harden‘s prime, and both he and Russell Westbrook will have the chance to opt out of their current contracts and become free agents in the summer of 2022.
Although the Rockets have gone through two recent shakeups by trading for Westbrook last July and fully embracing small-ball by dealing starting center Clint Capela in February, O’Connor believes more changes could be on the way, especially if the team gets bounced in the first round. Mike D’Antoni seems unlikely to return as head coach, and general manager Daryl Morey might have to consider changes to his philosophy of surrounding Harden and Westbrook with standstill shooters.
There are also concerns that Westbrook, an inconsistent 3-point shooter, doesn’t fit as well with Harden as Chris Paul once did. Playing just his second game since returning from a quad injury, Westbrook was particularly bad in the Game 6 loss, turning the ball over seven times.
“We’ve gotta take care of it. Starting with myself,” said Westbrook, who is expected to remain on a minutes limit tonight. “I’m just trying to figure out rhythm and timing, but I’ll figure it out next game.”
There’s more Rockets news to pass along:
- The team will make a greater effort to get the ball to Harden in the closing minutes if tonight’s game is close, D’Antoni tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Although stats show Harden’s usage hasn’t changed much in the final minutes of the three close games in the series, he didn’t touch the ball in the final seconds Monday with the Rockets trailing by two points. “Obviously, we’re trying to get him involved,” D’Antoni said. “We just kept turning it over before he had a chance to get involved. There was a number of turnovers that probably shouldn’t happen. We’ll talk about it. He knows. He’ll be ready to go.”
- While Westbrook was disappointing in Game 6, the Rockets made the right move by acquiring him in exchange for Paul and a parcel of draft picks, argues Mark Medina of USA Today. Medina points out that Paul’s injury history made him risky for Houston, even though he has stayed healthy this season. There was also noticeable tension between Paul and Harden that built up over two seasons, while Westbrook and Harden are long-time friends.
- Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press talks to several little-used players, including Rockets veteran center Tyson Chandler, about the experience of being stuck in a closed environment without seeing much playing time.
8 thoughts on “Rockets Notes: Game 7, Harden, Westbrook, Chandler”
If Houston loses the Knicks need to see if Westbrook is available instead of trying for CP3.
Dude, why on earth would the Knicks want Chris Paul?
Chris is never coming to Knicks, too old. Only way is if he is a coach. We don’t need Westbrook either. We are rebuilding. We don’t need 32 plus players. We need young stars 24-27. Relax after draft n yr of Thibs. We will be in position to go for player.
So even this story is about Harden running Chris out. Wow who’s been saying this. I’m not gonna smack. Not Harden guy. But it’s the same point I made. Losing again even next rd. Means another search. DAntoni is gone. So what happens to smaller ball. Your best shot was with Chris n Capela. Unless you move Westbrook next yr. Your Harden era will come up empty. He’s not a winner. He’s Melo with better scoring. All about his stats his image.
Westbrook to Sixers for Horford and Harris. They can make this work. Chemistry wise it’s best for both teams. Two bad chemistry teams. Making it right. I do it for both.
Capela was not a salary dump. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
It’s a miracle the Rockets beat both the Thunder and the refs during this 7-game series. OKC had just 120 fouls called against them compared to the 161 fouls called against Houston. They basically gave OKC two points at the end of the first half when Chris Paul deliberately fell to the ground, untouched. Pathetic.
Just wondering if you’ve ever seen a guy called James Harden play?
Have you? He is the best player in the NBA right now.
Dort was physical. That’s about it for a small team playing leftovers with Gallo or Bazley at the 4, a skinny guard at the 3, and Adams in space. The Rockets chose to go small when they didn’t have to and the price of that has only started coming due. It does no good complaining about the refs over and freaking over like HardWest is an FO plant or a mom in the stands.
If anyone’s trying to play it cynical, it’s the GM trading away decent 5s and telling the 3 they have no choice by playing him at the 5. Morey is lucky (or smart) there’s another short season coming up and he found a happy-to-be-there guy with a couple years more on his contract who can hit 3s and do the lane-work.