Following the departures of head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook have expressed concern – in discussions with their agents and Houston’s front office – about the direction of the franchise, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said last month that there are “no plans” to blow up the roster and that the team remains fully committed to contending for a title. New GM Rafael Stone echoed that sentiment, recently indicating that Houston is “all in” on its quest for a championship.
Despite those assurances, Harden and Westbrook have conveyed some concerns about how long the Rockets’ championship window will be open, according to ESPN’s duo. While neither player has asked for a trade, the organization is worried that their commitment to staying in Houston long-term may be wavering and believes the idea of the two guards requesting trades has become a “plausible eventual possibility,” per Woj and MacMahon.
The two former MVPs are each under contract through at least 2021/22, with $47MM player options for the ’22/23 season.
As Wojnarowski and MacMahon detail, Harden has been in discussions with the Rockets’ front office about potential roster moves this offseason, which isn’t new — he has “expressed similar urgency” about making moves to improve the club’s title chances during previous offseasons. He and Westbrook were also both consulted during Houston’s coaching search and were on board with the hiring of new head coach Stephen Silas, sources tell ESPN.
Still, while Morey was aggressive about upgrading the roster in past years, his moves have left the Rockets will little ammunition available for future deals. Houston is the only NBA team without a pick in the 2020 draft. The team has also traded away multiple first-round selections (2024 and 2026) and agreed to swap first-rounders in other years (2021 and 2025).
ESPN’s story on the Rockets’ stars comes on the heels of a report from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (video link), who suggested on The Mismatch podcast this week that teams around the NBA believe Westbrook “could be had” in a trade.
O’Connor says he has heard the Clippers and Knicks are among the teams with interest in Westbrook, though he cautions there’s no guarantee anything will materialize on that front.