Russell Westbrook made his trade request to the Rockets in large part because he and James Harden weren’t that great an on-court fit, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. As such, Houston viewed Westbrook’s desire to leave as a “blessing in disguise,” since it gave the team an opportunity to try to make Harden happy, per O’Connor.
As O’Connor explains, many members of the Rockets organization believe that Harden isn’t necessarily dead-set on leaving Houston, despite his reported preference for a trade — he simply wants to win a championship and is no longer sure whether his current team gives him a realistic chance to do so. If they want to keep him, the Rockets have to prove to Harden that they’re the team best suited to helping him realize that championship goal, O’Connor says.
Here’s more from The Ringer’s lead NBA reporter:
- The Rockets “searched far and wide” to find a Westbrook trade, says O’Connor. League sources tell The Ringer that the Hornets‘ interest in Westbrook dissipated after they drafted LaMelo Ball and that interest from the Knicks “eventually fizzled” as well, leaving the Wizards as the only viable suitor.
- The market for John Wall was even more limited than the one for Westbrook, according to O’Connor, who says that any team with even mild interest in acquiring the former No. 1 overall pick wanted multiple draft picks as a sweetener for taking on his oversized contract.
- Wall’s desire to be traded became public shortly after word of the Wizards‘ discussions with the Rockets initially broke. O’Connor suggests that wasn’t a coincidence, writing that Wall became “disgruntled” with his future in D.C. once those trade talks were reported.
- A video that surfaced in September showing Wall flashing gang signs at a party helped pave the way for his departure, since the club wasn’t pleased about that video, O’Connor confirms. Still, the Wizards‘ primary motivation for making the deal was their desire to focus on building around Bradley Beal and keeping him long-term, says O’Connor.