“I think we all realize that Harden and Westbrook aren’t the perfect fit for one another,” the first Eastern Conference executive said. “But I think they might just have to move forward with those two and continue to try to build the roster around them.” “The [New York] Knicks might be one of the only teams that could be a fit for Westbrook,” the executive continued. “Not sure if there are any others.”
“Westbrook isn’t a good compliment for anyone, in my opinion,” one Eastern Conference coachtold HoopsHype. “He has to be the main guy. He can’t shoot. He needs the ball. He’s not an off-ball player. Hard to play with two max guys who need the ball. Maybe it’s possible, but it seems like two good players instead of Westbrook would be better the way they play.”
Westbrook turns 32 in November and makes a staggering $47 million in 2022-23. The Rockets aren’t going to be able to trade him unless they take back somebody else’s dead weight, and we aren’t talking a few small sacks of potatoes here either.
Though unloading Paul’s contract was essential to the trade, the Rockets certainly hoped Westbrook would help them more. Ryen Russillo of The Ringer: I think Westbrook is available. We can talk about semantics Of course, Daryl Morey would trade anyone if he thought it made his team better. Of course, he would trade Westbrook if he could get off of that long-term money, if he thought the assets, the sum of the parts was better than having somebody that’s considered a top-10 player. Is Daryl Morey actively calling people, saying, “Hey, I’ve got to dump Westbrook?” Well, of course, he wouldn’t do it that way. But there are people who believe Westbrook is available and that Daryl knows, “I’ve got to figure something out here.” I’m sure people will deny this after they hear it on the podcast. I don’t care.
Jonathan Feigen: Mike D'Antoni was effusive in his praise for Chris Paul. "I want to thank Chris and what he did for the organization and for me personally. He's going to be sorely missed. At the same time, I'm excited about working with Westbrook and seeing what we can do."
Mark Berman: When asked about Russell Westbrook the first thing Mike D'Antoni wanted to talk about was Chris Paul: "Chris Paul gave me some of my best years of coaching. Enjoyed every second of it. Can only thank him for all he did for Houston and what he does for the NBA every year."
Mark Berman: Mike D'Antoni on Russell Westbrook: "Russell,obviously,we're getting another great NBA player. To get a great NBA player u got to lose a great NBA player.Looking forward to being reunited w/him b/c we were together at the Olympics&looking forward to having some great years w/him"
Mark Berman: Mike D'Antoni on landing Russell Westbrook: "I think we're gonna be, as we were and still are, one of the favorites in the West, if not the favorite. We're going to go have a great year. I'm excited as heck."
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey today announced that the team has acquired guard Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for guard Chris Paul, two protected first round picks, and other draft considerations.
“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future. Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” said Presti. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.”
Sam Presti: “Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”
Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was fined $25,000 by the NBA for commenting about the Russell Westbrook trade before the deal was official, sources confirmed. The league office has not announced the fine, which is for comments Fertitta made to Houston's Fox 26 after the Rockets agreed to send Chris Paul and two future first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the perennial All-Star point guard.
The price is really the issue. Most rebuilding teams with holes at point guard -- or just lots of holes -- expressed little interest in giving up any real assets for Westbrook, sources say. That might have changed by Dec. 15, when most free agents signed this week become trade-eligible again -- and by which point some team will feel more desperate than it does today. But given the initial cool response to Westbrook's availability, the Thunder were correct to pounce early. (I have said many times I would not have given up any real assets for Westbrook. The Heat trading Goran Dragic and blah contracts for him seemed like a fair endgame. The market was indeed cool. But remember the old NBA adage: It only takes one.)
This kind of push-and-pull infected talks between Houston and Oklahoma City on Thursday. (Talks between the Heat and Thunder had quieted by then, sources say.) The Rockets tried to coax Oklahoma City into taking Houston's 2020 first-rounder, sources say. Oklahoma City refused, and pushed for picks further out. Houston relented, and the two settled on Houston's 2024 and 2026 picks -- both with just top-four protection.
Westbrook was enthusiastic about playing with Harden again, per sources familiar with the talks. That kind of buy-in matters. Both superstars will have to change for this to work, even though Mike D'Antoni will probably stagger minutes as rigidly as he did with Harden and Paul. D'Antoni's experience coaching Westbrook on Team USA boosted Houston's comfort level making this deal, sources say. The Thunder belonged to Westbrook in almost every way. The Rockets do not. Maybe that alone will spur some change in him.
Westbrook met with the Thunder front office this week to say he would welcome a trade following Paul George’s departure to the Clippers. But an individual with knowledge of the talks said Westbrook initially broached the subject after OKC’s season ended with a first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Paul will return to Oklahoma City, where he played for the then-Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.
Tim MacMahon: The tension between James Harden and Chris Paul, which Rockets considered manageable and not unusual for NBA alpha dogs, didn’t factor into decision to make the trade for Russell Westbrook. Source: “That would not have driven us to do something we otherwise wouldn’t have done.”
He had a clear-cut favorite choice, a league source told The Athletic, and he landed there on Thursday when he was traded to the Houston Rockets for a package of Chris Paul, a pair of first-round draft picks and the rights to swap picks twice in the future. For the Thunder, it’s part of a historic haul of picks acquired over the course of six days for trades involving Paul George, Jerami Grant and Westbrook.
Westbrook, a source said, is intrigued by the possibilities in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, by the way Houston spreads the floor and often plays without a center clogging the paint. Westbrook’s expectation is that he’ll have more open driving lanes and that he’ll be surrounded by more shooting than he has been in Oklahoma City. He’s excited, the source said, by the challenges he and Harden can create together for a defense.
The exit strategy was being prepared. After a 10-year stretch in which the Thunder made the playoffs nine times and amassed a winning percentage of 64%, OKC, according to league sources, viewed the 2019-2020 season as its last, best chance at winning a title. The Thunder spent $60 million in luxury tax last season for their 49 wins. But they did so because the alternative was not having two superstars in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder have battled against it since their inception, and with George's ties to the Los Angeles area, there was no stopping it a second time around. The Thunder staved off the draw of L.A. once before, but after a yearlong, already successful recruiting effort, there was simply nothing left to sell. The partnership with Westbrook was a big part of it, and Westbrook did his part, with the two building a strong relationship both on and off the court. But even as George's trade request shook the walls of the organization, Westbrook didn't try to change his mind, according to multiple sources.
I think Miami is the only place that makes any sense. Not from a basketball standpoint -- I don't like the fit of Westbrook and Jimmy Butler together -- but the Heat are one of the few teams willing to take on both Westbrook's money and his personality. In fact, Miami could be the only one. It would make for a fascinating story on several levels. People around the league consider it an inevitability that he will wind up there at this point, too.
Winderman spoke to radio host Kevin Rogers during an episode of the “WQAM Evenings Reporter’s Show” regarding the possibility of the Heat acquiring the Thunder point guard. “I think he’s coming,” Winderman said. “Every time there’s been a Heat rumor of any subsequence or consequence that’s lingered this long, the Heat have wound up getting the player. It’s not about free agency where they’re one of six people in the room with Kevin Durant, one of three people in the room with Gordon Hayward. But it seems like, ‘Ah the Heat’s gonna get Jimmy Butler,’ then they got Jimmy Butler. The Heat’s gonna make a trade or get this player, the Heat get that player. Yeah I think we’re very much trending in that direction.”
Regardless, Westbrook is open to a deal and seems to like the idea of winding up in Miami. If previous reports and rumors weren’t enough proof, as Bleacher Report revealed, Westbrook liked a photo of him wearing a Heat jersey.
September 26, 2020 | 7:47 am EDT Update
Brian Windhorst: The Thunder are beginning to look at a rebuild, which is one of the reasons why Billy Donovan did not stay. So with the expectation this could be a first-time head coach. Some of the names that I’ve heard: David Vanterpool, who is an assistant with the Timberwolves. Adrian Griffin, who’s been a candidate for jobs over the years, recently with Toronto. And watch out for a sleeper candidate: Will Hardy, assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, a lot of people are very high on him.
Brian Windhorst on Rockets’ coaching search: Keep an eye on former Rocket, a guy who won a championship in Houston, Sam Cassell. And if not him, one of the favorites is our colleague here at ESPN, former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, in the mix for this job.
Fox is the team’s best chance to accomplish that goal, although McNair has to make a major commitment to the former Kentucky Wildcat this season. League sources have confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings, under previous management, already had a discussion with Fox’s representation on an extension. Depending on where the NBA’s final salary cap numbers come in, Fox is eligible for a five-year max money contract worth between $150-180 million. Don’t expect a discounted rate. He will ask for and likely get whatever the maximum is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Ntilikina and Smith both are in the final years of their rookie contracts and haven’t lit the league on fire yet. They have vastly different styles. Ntilikina is a playmaker and defender, while Smith is a scorer and penetrator. Smith has even changed his jersey number to No. 4 — which he wore at North Carolina State. “We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,’’ Thibodeau said after the third day of voluntary group practices that is part of the NBA’s in-market OTAs for the “Delete 8.’’
“I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s often times ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others. “They both have had some good moments in the league. You want to build a consistency. And how do you get there? You have to do it through your work. You have to learn from the experiences. And you have to be disciplined. And so, hopefully we can get there this is a very important offseason for both players.”
As it happened, Butler’s hard-nosed approach wasn’t accepted by Minnesota’s ownership, management or their young players. Butler asked to be traded and Thibodeau was soon out of a job. “Butler didn’t like some of the guys’ lack of professionalism,” one NBA source told The Post. “[Jimmy] and Tom had long talks about how to deal with it. When Butler realized it was unsolvable, he lashed out at the organization. His clock was ticking on his prime and didn’t want to waste it and forced his way out. Tommy was telling him to have patience, see it through.”
Boston overcame a 12-point first-half deficit, its largest comeback when facing elimination in 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info. “Boston played great in that second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They deserved and earned what they got. We understand how tough it is to win in the playoffs. We did not compete hard enough defensively, and we paid the price for that. But you do have to credit Boston. They played with great force, particularly off the dribble.”
During a huddle in the second half, coach Brad Stevens told his players that, for the first time in several games, they were playing Celtics basketball. Though this was probably obvious to anyone who has watched this conference finals series, it was a powerful statement that spoke to both how much of a departure the Celtics’ recent efforts have been from their ideal selves, and to Boston’s potential to be a two-way monster when the players are confident and aggressive. “He was absolutely right, we didn’t play the way we wanted the whole series,” Theis said. “We didn’t play our defense, we did adjustments and we just went back to our system the way we played all year. Everybody felt comfortable in our system. You could tell in the third quarter everybody was just enjoying being out there.”
Rachel Nichols: Brad Stevens told me at halftime that several players spoke up, talking about how dire the moment was and how they had to save their season. Jayson Tatum was one of them – he just told me he’s proud of how the group responded afterward.
Sean Grande: Brad on the Miami zone…”I hear all the time ‘get the ball to the middle of [it]. When you have Butler, Iguodala and Bam in the middle of the zone that’s how you turn it over. You’ve got to create action before the passes. If you stare at it, they’re going to steal it.”
With a berth in the NBA Finals on the line, Adebayo wanted all the blame for Miami’s ugly second half and the 121-108 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. “I played like s— — bottom line — (and) I can’t,” said Adebayo, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but along with his Heat teammates couldn’t slow the Celtics during a 41-point, third-quarter outburst and couldn’t stop Boston from trimming the Heat’s series lead to 3-2. “I’ll put that game on me,” he continued. “It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made. … I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”