Russell Westbrook

O’Connor’s Latest: Westbrook, Harden, Wall, Beal

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.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Wall, Westbrook, Roster

Shortly after Houston traded Russell Westbrook to Washington on Wednesday night, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reported that the Rockets‘ stance on James Harden hadn’t changed and that they didn’t envision a scenario where he’d be traded before opening night.

Following up on that report, Jordan Schultz of ESPN (Twitter link) asked a Rockets source if the club is done making offseason moves.

“Yes, we are done!” that source replied. “Can’t always say for sure but that’s the plan.”

While the Rockets are seemingly intent on keeping Harden for the time being, John Hollinger of The Athletic believes it’s just a matter of time before they’ll have to make a deal. Hollinger believes the Rockets will likely attempt to duck the luxury tax again this season, further weakening the roster in the process, and says teams around the league are waiting to see if Houston gets serious about moving Harden during the season or in the 2021 offseason.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) this morning, Adrian Wojnarowski said that Harden “had a preference of John Wall over Westbrook.” While that may be the case, it’s worth noting that a year ago we heard that Harden’s preference was Westbrook over Chris Paul, and that didn’t work out great.
  • In the wake of the Westbrook trade, Zach Lowe of ESPN explained on his Lowe Post podcast that the market for the former MVP was virtually nonexistent outside of Washington’s offer. “The Clippers were not interested,” Lowe said, per RealGM. “The Knicks were not interested unless they were incentivized. I don’t know where the Hornets noise came from — maybe it was credible. All I can say is, from the people I know there, I never heard they were interested. There was, to my knowledge, nothing.”
  • The Rockets’ decision-makers don’t believe that the trade for Wall alters the “suddenly strained dynamic” between Harden and the team, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Insider link).
  • New Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said today that he expects to have his full roster available when practices begin on Sunday, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. If Silas is right, that suggests that no Rockets were among the 48 players who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Reactions To John Wall, Russell Westbrook Trade

Just when it seemed like the NBA offseason was winding down, the Rockets and Wizards made a big splash on Wednesday night, swapping star point guards. Russell Westbrook headed to Washington in the blockbuster deal in exchange for John Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick.

While word of the trade agreement came as something of a surprise when it broke last night, it makes perfect sense in at least one respect: Westbrook’s and Wall’s oversized contracts didn’t appeal to most teams around the NBA, so trading them for one another was the logical move.

“The trade seemed inevitable,” one Eastern Conference executive told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “Two players at similar stages of their careers and both having demanded a change of scenery. Brooks gets a force of nature with whom he is well versed. Houston gets a much needed first-round pick as they inch toward a rebuild.”

Another Eastern exec who spoke to Scotto suggested that the Wizards are “for sure” a playoff team after adding Westbrook, while a scout told HoopsHype that he’s bullish on Westbrook in D.C. since head coach Scott Brooks “knows how to use him.” However, not everyone who spoke to Scotto loved the trade for the Wizards.

“Two of the worst contracts flipped for each other should tell you something,” a Western Conference GM told HoopsHype. “Did you see Russ play last year? He slowed down (James) Harden. I feel bad for Beal.”

Here are more reactions to – and analyses of – one of the biggest trades of the 2020 offseason:

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post (Twitter link) hears that D.C. was Westbrook’s preferred destination, and that the former MVP is intrigued by the opportunity to team up with Bradley Beal and to play again for Brooks, his former coach in Oklahoma City.
  • The Rockets remain in win-now mode and “wouldn’t accept” trading Westbrook away for a package that signaled a full-scale rebuild, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko adds that initial talks between the two teams stalled because they were haggling over draft capital and the possible inclusion of another young player – such as Thomas Bryant – in a deal. Houston and Washington ultimately kept it simple, just adding a single first-round pick to the Westbrook/Wall swap.
  • Kurt Helin of NBC Sports poses five big questions related to the trade, including how much Wall has left in the tank after missing nearly two full years due to injury.
  • The trade is the right move for the Wizards, but it’s packed with risk, Ben Golliver writes for The Washington Post. Elsewhere at The Washington Post, Jerry Brewer bids farewell to Wall, writing that the former No. 1 pick’s exit “seems both premature and overdue.”
  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had to make a choice between Wall and Beal and ultimately decided to stick with Beal, says David Aldridge of The Athletic. “At the end of the day, this is a Ted call,” a source told Aldridge.
  • The Westbrook/Wall swap is a sign of how the two point guards are valued in today’s NBA, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, who says “the teams that matter aren’t the least bit concerned by this move.”
  • Having covered Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Fred Katz of The Athletic tells Wizards fans what they can expect from their new point guard.

Rockets Trade Westbrook To Wizards For Wall, First-Round Pick

8:04pm: The trade is now official, the Rockets announced in a press release.

6:58pm: The Rockets and Wizards have agreed to swap star point guards, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who reports that John Wall is headed to Houston in exchange for Russell Westbrook.

The Rockets will also receive a first-round pick, per Woj. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that it’ll be Washington’s protected 2023 first-rounder and will be lottery-protected. Those protections will gradually decrease each year, and if it hasn’t changed hands by 2026, it’ll become two second-rounders, says Charania.

The deal involves two players on super-max extensions, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Westbrook will make $41.4MM and $44.2MM over the next two seasons with a player option in 2022/23 for $47.1MM. Wall is due $41.3MM and $44.3MM in the next two years, followed by a $47.4MM player option. His contract also includes a 15% trade bonus that will be voided because his salary is more than the league maximum for the upcoming season, Marks adds (Twitter link).

Both players issued trade requests to their respective teams in the past month. Westbrook’s was reported November 11 after he told Rockets officials he has been “uneasy about the team’s accountability and culture.” He expressed a desire to join an organization where he will once again be the lead playmaker, which presumably will happen in Washington.

Wall’s request came a little more than a week later, after news leaked that the Wizards had spoken to the Rockets about a possible swap for Westbrook. General manager Tommy Sheppard responded by saying the team had no plans to trade Wall.

Up until today, Sheppard and Rockets general manager Rafael Stone hadn’t discussed a potential Westbrook/Wall trade since October, sources tell Wojnarowski. However, the two GMs revisited the idea and had worked out a deal within hours, according to Woj.

In Washington, Westbrook will be reunited with Scott Brooks, who was his head coach with the Thunder from his rookie season until 2015. Brooks has always been a huge fan of Westbrook and they remain close friends, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. Westbrook is also close with Wizards assistant Robert Pack from their time together in OKC, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link).

Westbrook, 32, spent one season in Houston after being traded there last summer. He averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 57 games, but his poor outside shooting was an issue for a team that places a heavy emphasis on the three-pointer. Westbrook shot just 25.8% from long range during the season and 24.2% in the playoffs.

In Houston, Wall will join forces with former college teammate DeMarcus Cousins, who officially signed with the Rockets on Tuesday. Wall was sidelined last season with an Achilles tear and hasn’t played at all since December of 2018. The 30-year-old was the top pick in the 2010 draft and has spent the past 10 seasons in Washington.

While the Rockets have now moved on from Westbrook, they don’t believe that James Harden – who also reportedly wants to be traded – will be moved before opening night, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. According to MacMahon, Houston recognized that the market for Westbrook was limited, but would seek a “king’s ransom” in any Harden deal.

Meanwhile, in D.C., Bradley Beal has been the subject of frequent trade speculation for the last year or two, but the Wizards have insisted both publicly and privately that he won’t be dealt, and Beal hasn’t expressed any interest in a move. That stance seems unlikely to change before he gets a chance to assess his fit alongside Westbrook over the course of the ’20/21 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this story.

Southwest Rumors: Harden, Westbrook, Grizzlies, Porzingis, More

The Rockets still expect to begin the season with former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook on their roster, despite a handful of November trade rumors, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on Complex’s Load Management podcast.

Although there’s no momentum toward a trade involving either player, Charania dropped a couple interesting tidbits during his podcast discussion about the Rockets stars, mentioning that the Warriors “made a call” about Harden and that the Cavaliers talked to Houston about Westbrook. Based on Charania’s comments, it doesn’t sound like any traction was gained in either case.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Grizzlies are currently carrying 17 players on guaranteed contracts, meaning a couple of those players will have to be traded or released before the start of the regular season. Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian suggests that Mario Hezonja and Marko Guduric appear to be the most likely odd men out.
  • Confirming a previous report, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reiterated today that Kristaps Porzingis (knee) won’t play until at least January, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Carlisle did say that Porzingis’ rehab is going well and that the big man is doing “light court work.”
  • Mavericks rookie guard Tyrell Terry will receive $4.6MM in guaranteed money on his four-year contract, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. While we don’t know the exact terms of Terry’s deal, it sounds like his first three seasons will be guaranteed.
  • The three-year, minimum-salary contract that second-rounder Tre Jones signed with the Spurs is fully guaranteed for the first two years, as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports details (via Twitter).

Rockets Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Diop, Caboclo, Green

The Rockets are likely to start training camp and the regular season with James Harden and Russell Westbrook on the roster, Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s SportsCenter (video link). Houston has not engaged on trade talks involving Harden. The team has tried to find a taker for Westbrook but his contract, which has three years and $132.5MM remaining, makes it very difficult. “That’s not an easy trade to make,” Wojnarowski said.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • DeSagana Diop has joined Stephen Silas’ coaching staff, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Diop, who appeared in over 600 games as an NBA player, had been a Jazz assistant coach the last four years.
  • The Rockets’ front office would like to re-sign free agent big man Bruno Caboclo, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. Caboclo, 24, was dealt from Memphis to Houston at the trade deadline in February, but didn’t see much action after joining the Rockets. He appeared in just eight regular-season games and made two postseason cameos.
  • Gerald Green remains hopeful the Rockets will re-sign him, Mark Berman of KRIV tweets. “Everybody knows how much I feel about this city and what this city feels for me,” Green said. The veteran swingman missed the entire 2019/20 season due to a broken foot and has been training privately in Houston.
  • ICYMI, Sterling Brown agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockets on Sunday.

Atlantic Notes: Rose, Hayward, Brown, Spellman

New Knicks president Leon Rose has exuded patience during free agency with an eye toward next offseason’s potentially star-studded free agent class, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Though the Knicks had some interest in Fred VanVleet and Gordon Hayward, they were not going to shell out the money and multi-year contracts that those top-level free agents received. New York could still trade for Russell Westbrook if the Rockets’ asking price drops but Rose isn’t inclined to make any panic moves, Popper adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Hayward posted a message on Twitter, thanking Celtics fans for their support during his three seasons there.I know there were some ups and downs, but I will always cherish my experience in Boston. I am forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to wear a Celtics uniform and play in front of the Garden faithful,” said Hayward, who also posted a tweet about his excitement to play for the Hornets.
  • The Nets are looking at Bruce Brown as a defensive stopper, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Brown was acquired from the Pistons in a three-team deal and slots in as a combo guard. “Bruce, we’ve talked about adding some defensive players,” Nets GM Sean Marks said. “A toughness, a mindset, that’s what we’ll certainly be looking for in Bruce.”
  • The Knicks will retain big man Omari Spellman and he’s got a pretty good shot to make the opening-night roster, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. New York has an agreement to acquire Spellman, shooting guard Jacob Evans and the rights to a future second-round pick from the Timberwolves in exchange for Ed Davis. Berman’s note indicates Spellman’s salary wasn’t simply thrown in to make a trade work.

John Wall Reportedly Seeking Trade Out Of Washington

Although talks between the Wizards and Rockets on a potential Russell Westbrook/John Wall trade have stalled, Wall has made it clear that he wants to be traded out of Washington, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

This is a surprising development, as Wall has spent his entire career in D.C. and has spent the better part of two years rehabbing multiple injuries, including a torn Achilles. Having last played on December 26, 2018, Wall appeared poised to return for the Wizards next month, joining forces with Bradley Beal and a newly re-signed Davis Bertans in an effort to get the team back into the postseason.

It’s still possible that will happen. Just because Wall is seeking a trade, that doesn’t mean the Wizards have to oblige. Wall, who has one of the least team-friendly contracts in the NBA still has three years and nearly $133MM left on his deal.

Moving that contract will be a challenge – especially given how long it’s been since teams have seen Wall play – and the 30-year-old doesn’t have a ton of leverage to force Washington’s hand, since he’s so far removed from free agency. Westbrook’s deal is one of the few in the same ballpark financially, but the Rockets would be seeking additional assets in any swap involving the two All-Star point guards.

The Wizards’ biggest concern may be the ripple effect of Wall’s stance. So far, the team has been adamant that it has no intention of trading Bradley Beal and that it wants to see its backcourt fully healthy and back in action this season. In Houston, Westbrook and James Harden both asked to be traded one after the other — general manager Tommy Sheppard won’t want to see that scenario play out with Washington’s star guards.

Before his 2018/19 season ended prematurely, Wall had been averaging 20.7 PPG, 8.7 APG, and 3.6 RPG in 34.5 minutes per contest.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets, Magic Discussed Russell Westbrook Trade

The Rockets talked to the Magic about a deal involving Russell Westbrook, but the teams weren’t able to make any progress, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The trade would have included a package from Orlando with Aaron Gordon as the centerpiece.

Houston has been searching for a taker for Westbrook, who reportedly asked to be dealt after one season with the team. Rumors have focused on the Knicks, Hornets and Wizards, but the Rockets have seen a limited market for the former MVP. His contract, with $132MM remaining over three seasons, has been an impediment, along with his age and history of injuries.

The Magic have been exploring deals involving Gordon, who has two years left on his contract at about $34.5MM. The 25-year-old is an explosive dunker, but hasn’t developed into the player Orlando was expecting when it drafted him fourth overall in 2014. His scoring average dipped for the second straight season in 2019/20, falling to 14.4 PPG, and he shot just 43.7% from the field.

Latest On James Harden, Russell Westbrook

Since word broke that James Harden was hoping for a trade out of Houston, reports have indicated that the Rockets are hoping they can convince him to reconsider his position and make roster moves that show him the team can still contend for a title. However, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon suggested during an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast that the team’s commitment to that position may be wavering.

“The sense I get from the Rockets is that their ambition, their goal, their hope is no longer about salvaging the relationship with James Harden and kind of getting him on board,” MacMahon said (hat tip to RealGM). “There is a realization that his mind is made up. He wants out and there is a determination to say ‘Okay, we get it. This happens in the NBA, but just because James Harden wants out, doesn’t mean he gets to dictate where and for what.'”

As MacMahon explains, even if the Rockets are no longer confident that Harden can be convinced to spend the rest of his career in Houston, that doesn’t mean the team will make a trade as soon as possible to send him to his preferred landing spot in Brooklyn.

MacMahon, who suggested last week that Houston is “willing to get uncomfortable” with Harden and Russell Westbrook, told Windhorst that the club would be seeking a young potential franchise player and a Jrue Holiday-esque package of draft picks in any deal for Harden. And the Rockets are prepared to be patient in the hopes of having that price met, if not by the Nets then perhaps by the Sixers or another club.

“What they’re saying is, ‘Look, we’re not going to be rushed into this,'” MacMahon said. “… They’re saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to come to camp, you’re probably going to have to start the season.’ At this point, the Rockets have to be willing to listen. They understand that at some point they’re going to have to make a trade. But it’s not when he has two years plus a player option on his deal.”

As for Westbrook, MacMahon said there’s “not a fit for him that makes any kind of sense” on the trade market for now. The Rockets’ hope is that Westbrook will start the season with the team, show he’s healthy, and potentially increase his value, per MacMahon.