Westbrook has expressed to team officials that he has been “uneasy about the team’s accountability and culture,” according to Charania, who adds that the former MVP would like to join a team where he can have a role similar to the one had in Oklahoma City up until 2019.
This is a significant development, following the news revealed earlier today that Westbrook and his fellow All-Star guard James Harden have relayed to the Houston front office and to their own representatives that they were concerned about the direction of the franchise.
The team finished the 2019/20 season with a 44-28 record, good for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Houston lost 4-1 to the eventual champion Lakers in the second round of the 2020 playoffs. Since then, both head coach Mike D’Antoni and front office architect Daryl Morey have departed the franchise.
Westbrook, who turns 32 tomorrow, has $132MM remaining on his contract over the next three seasons, including a $47MM player option during his age-34 season in 2022/23.
Finding a trade partner to take on Westbrook’s contract without attaching additional assets may prove difficult for the Rockets’ new-look front office, led by GM Rafael Stone, as the team surrendered several draft picks to acquire and then accommodate him.
Harden, meanwhile, apparently wants to remain with the Rockets, team sources inform Charania and Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). The team reportedly remains committed to building a title contender around Harden.
Ahead of the 2019/20 season, the Rockets sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul, their first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 (top-four protected), plus 2021 and 2025 pick swap rights, to the Thunder in exchange for Westbrook.
Looking to further account for the fit of Westbrook – a limited shooter – on the floor, the Rockets sent center Clint Capela and their 2020 first-round pick to the Hawks in a four-team deadline deal that brought back three-and-D forward Robert Covington, a second-round pick, and forward Jordan Bell (who was flipped for Bruno Caboclo).
Assuming the Rockets look to accommodate Westbrook’s apparent trade request, he’ll become one of the most notable players on the trade block this offseason, joining fellow guards Paul and Jrue Holiday. A previous report from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer indicated that the Clippers and Knicks are among the teams with interest in Westbrook.
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