NBA rumors: Rockets, Cavs discussed Russell Westbrook trade

More on Russell Westbrook Trade

What’s Houston’s mindset going into training camp with Harden and Westbrook? Feigen: I think the organization’s mood is extremely cautiously optimistic, but optimistic. The organization has felt all along they need to bring these guys back and let them work with Stephen Silas, let them work with a slightly changed rotation, and let them feel good about that. Things get that way a little more when you’re apart and when you’re playing pickup ball with KD (Kevin Durant), and he’s so excited about what that team can do. You remember those good times in Oklahoma City, and they went to the Finals where Harden has not been since he left Oklahoma City.
Feigen: Harden, that would mean blow it up and start over in so many ways. You’re rebuilding if you move Harden. I think there’s a sense here, but really around the league, that they need to be patient on any consideration of moving Westbrook until he sort of rebuilds his stock to where teams start looking at him as a superstar again rather than what the last thing they saw, which was Westbrook in the bubble coming off the thigh injury more quickly than he normally would have and coming off COVID. Teams need to see him look like the full Russ again.
Salman Ali: .@Adrian Wojnarowski says the Rockets have engaged in Russell Westbrook trade discussions, but not James Harden ones. Says Houston getting both Harden and Westbrook back in training camp is more likely than Westbrook getting moved.

https://twitter.com/SalmanAliNBA/status/1331061267474370561
For what it’s worth, I had heard prior to the start of free agency that Houston had also asked for Thomas Bryant in any discussion, although it’s unclear how that would work now with Wood on board. There are a lot of moving parts here and the season is just around the corner. Man, this stuff is difficult!
Kelly Iko on Westbrook-to-Wizards rumors: I had heard that. Houston also wanted Thomas Bryant if that was going to be the case.
In the Hornets’ case, there is a belief in some corners of the league that their appetite for a Westbrook trade increases significantly if Charlotte does not land LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 overall pick in Wednesday’s draft. Michael Jordan, Charlotte’s owner, is a known Westbrook admirer. Should the playmaking Ball be drafted before the Hornets’ turn at No. 3, according to the theory, there is a much stronger case to be made for trading for Westbrook in spite of the cost and attendant risk.
A Wall-Westbrook swap is not imminent, according to sources. But the fact that teams are having discussions that involve Wall should change the conversation about his deal, even if it is for another point guard in his 30s whose game is predicated mostly on athleticism and is also on a massive contract.
Wall’s version of this would be going to the Rockets for Westbrook — if it ever happens. If it doesn’t, maybe there’s something else out there. Maybe there’s another niche market that doesn’t consider Wall the league’s least-tradeable player and instead deems him more desirable than some other guys. After all, Wall is now fully healthy and has looked encouraging, according to people who have been at his offseason workouts and scrimmages.
Longtime NBA reporter Ric Bucher went on “The Odd Couple” podcast with Chris Broussard and Rob Parker and shared an interesting tidbit about the discord in Houston. According to Bucher, there is a “revolt” going on, and it’s directly related to Fertitta supporting President Trump. “I immediately thought this was Daryl Morey leaving, and Mike D’Antoni leaving, and Russell Westbrook and James Harden going ‘No offense to Stephen Silas or Rafael Stone, but we don’t want a starter kit, we’re playing for a championship,'” Bucher said on the podcast. “But what I heard is — and we know how much politics and political position had to do with the boycott and protests during the (NBA) bubble — I’m hearing that Tilman Fertitta’s strong Republican support and donations is one of the things that is contributing to this dissatisfaction, and those two [Westbrook and Harden] are not the only ones to want out of Houston. Lesser players are of the same mind. There is a revolt here because they look at Fertitta as a guy who supports the current president.”
A source confirmed that the Rockets and Washington Wizards have discussed a Westbrook-for-John Wall deal, as first reported by The Athletic, but Houston wants assets in addition to Wall, a former All-Star point guard who is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon.
In the Hornets’ case, there is a belief in some corners of the league that their appetite for a Westbrook trade increases significantly if Charlotte does not land LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 overall pick in Wednesday’s draft. Michael Jordan, Charlotte’s owner, is a known Westbrook admirer. Should the playmaking Ball be drafted before the Hornets’ turn at No. 3, according to the theory, there is a much stronger case to be made for trading for Westbrook in spite of the cost and attendant risk. Some league insiders believe that the Hornets, at Jordan’s behest, want Ball at No. 3 should Minnesota and Golden State keep the top two picks to select Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. Others see Charlotte springing a surprise at No. 3 and selecting the fast-rising Onyeka Okongwu.
Marc Stein: Charlotte and the Knicks are the only teams with verified trade interest in Russell Westbrook, league sources say ... interest with many caveats We expound on it all in this week's @nytimes On Basketball newsletter. Sign up here for direct delivery today: nytimes.com/stein
Reports of a Russell Westbrook trade request to the Houston Rockets leaked last week, but it could have been in response to James Harden privately angling for a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. "I heard it a number of days ago," said Brian Windhorst on The Lowe Post of Harden's interest in the Nets. "Guess who else heard it? Russell Westbrook. So I think Westbrook, who is kind of the forgotten man here, I think he goes in and is like 'You're not asking for a trade. I'm asking for a trade.' "And so I think in the postmortem, it might have been Harden who moved first."
Shams Charania: Rockets star James Harden wants to be on a contender elsewhere, and Brooklyn and Philadelphia are believed to be his top desired trade destinations, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. Houston is fully comfortable keeping Harden and Russell Westbrook into the season.
On Saturday, Cody Zeller joined Sirius XM Radio to discuss the speculation regarding Russell Westbrook and the possibility of him joining the Houston Rockets. “I find out the news the same way everybody else does, on Twitter. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit, both being Jordan athletes. So whatever happens happens. I’ve been in this league long enough to not really worry about it. There’s so many rumors that fly around. I’m playing in Charlotte until they tell me to go play somewhere else, and that’s the way I look at it.”
Multiple league sources say interest in Westbrook is minimal. Last week, I reported that the Clippers and Knicks are interested in trading for him. But interest doesn’t mean anything more than just that. Most teams don’t need a starting point guard. And every team is scared off by Westbrook’s bloated contract (worth $44.2 million annually for the next three seasons), injury history, and polarizing playing style.
Westbrook is owed $132.6 million over the next three seasons, including his player option for the 2022-23 season. Despite coming off an All-Star season, most teams around the league aren’t willing to give up their best assets for him. Houston’s trade leverage also took a hit once it was reported that Westbrook wanted out.
As colleague Frank Urbina wrote on HoopsHype, Charlotte is one potential destination that could make sense for Westbrook on the trade market, and Batum’s contract would likely need to be included to facilitate such a trade.
The Rockets have no interest in tearing things down to restock shelves with draft picks and prospects and start over, a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking said. They will attempt to be much more Daryl Morey’s “win now” Rockets than Sam Hinkie’s “trust the process” Sixers.
Stone has known how Westbrook feels long enough that he did not need Sunday’s NBA memo, declaring that the moratorium on trades ends at 11 a.m. Monday morning, to begin assessing his options. Westbrook, like Harden, shares his opinions generously. So far, Stone has not gotten close to the “shopping” stage, with his talks falling between “listening” and “exploring.”
The Rockets likely will need both. And for the trade possibilities that have circled like birds of prey, the Rockets’ goal remains, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking, to make their core players believe again in the team’s championship chances. That, as always, begins with the face of the franchise. James Harden has long had enormous input in how the team has been built. That has not changed. He has been known to grow impatient, as with his restlessness through the six days it took to complete the trade for Westbrook in the summer of 2019.
The Rockets believe they can bring in the help to regain his confidence. But it will take a whole lot more than powers of persuasion to make the Rockets — tied for fourth in the West and quickly brushed aside by the champion Lakers in the second round — look like legitimate contenders. Westbrook, according to a person with knowledge of conversations, wants to feel as if he can “be himself.” That could mean moving to a team that would return him to his Thunder role. The Rockets believe it could come with adjustments in Houston.
The Rockets have been actively searching for trade partners for guard Russell Westbrook, but that marketplace is proving relatively barren, sources said. Westbrook, 32, has three years and $131.5 million left on his contract -- including a $46.7 million player option in 2022-23.
Brian T. Smith: I know for a fact that the Rockets believe that they have to trade Russell Westbrook. The issue is going to be... Are they able to? Is there a way to calm the situation down? Do they try to trade him and they have to end up backing off?
Stadium is reporting the Hornets could be interested in trading for All-Star Russell Westbrook. Hornets Free Agent Center Bismack Biyombo addressed the rumors on NBA Radio.
If the Knicks acquire Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook in a trade, several teams expect them to also pursue veterans in free agency that can help them compete in 2020-21. As we’ve reported, some MSG people are hesitant to give up assets in a Westbrook or Paul deal because they want to have enough trade capital to deal for another top player – if/when one becomes available via trade. But if they find a Westbrook/Paul trade that suits them, it’s fair to assume that Julius Randle is involved to match salaries. The Knicks could also absorb the Westbrook or Paul contracts into cap space
Rose’s decisions will tell us whether the Knicks, under his watch, are aiming for immediate contention or continuing their rebuild. If he makes a run at Russell Westbrook or deals prospects/picks for a win-now piece, the timeline is shifted. If he keeps the draft pick, signs young free agents and acquires assets, the development stage moves forward. If he maintains cap space for next summer, prepare for the run at Giannis Antetokounmpo. From what we’ve gathered from two sources who’ve been in contact with the Knicks about roster decisions, Tom Thibodeau is pushing win-now moves. That’s predictable. It’s how the coach is wired. Thibodeau is also a former team president who acknowledged having a say in New York’s roster construction.
Ramona Shelburne on Russell Westbrook: I thought he was trying to get to some good teams. That was that was the initial Intel I had. And then I had a couple more conversations and I turned around on a completely like, just it sounds like he and James didn't get along. That whole partnership didn't work. And he wants to go and be the man again. That's just the vibe that I get.
If Russell Westbrook is on the discount rack, Knicks president Leon Rose is all in, according to NBA sources. With Chris Paul’s trade situation up in the air, Rose still has some interest in seeing if he can pry Westbrook from Houston, if he’s on sale, but it would seem like a long shot.
The Knicks feel they have a lot of leverage and aren’t trying to give up any key future pawns, according to sources. Their potential interest could stem from using it as a scare tactic with OKC in any Paul talks.
The Observer asked Kupchak about the Westbrook rumors, and Kupchak replied, “I can’t comment on other teams’ players.” Kupchak didn’t say whether he’s spoken with the Rockets, but acknowledged “we’re active, we’re talking to teams. We’re looking for ways to improve our team.”
Marc Stein: The Knicks are on the short list of viable trade destinations for Houston's Russell Westbrook, league sources say If the Knicks prove willing to absorb the $130+ million left on Westbrook's contract to make him their centerpiece, there is a trade to be made They have weighed it
The Houston Rockets are believed to have a limited trade market for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook either wants to be traded or significant changes to the way the Rockets operate. "I've got bad news for him on both of those fronts," said Brian Windhorst on Sports Center. "New coach Stephen Silas has said he does not intend to change the offense very much. I've surveyed a significant part of the league today and I don't think there's a lot of interest in Russell Westbrook trades out there. Not because they don't think he's not much of a player, but because of his contract."
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Russell Westbrook doesn’t want to play for Tilman Fertitta. That’s the real reason why he wants out. From what I’ve heard: Rockets Locker room personnel is straight. It’s the front office and higher ups that have hampered the team.
First Take: "I'm telling you what I have heard: they don't want to play with each other any more. Russell Westbrook doesn't want to play with James Harden. James Harden doesn't want to play with Russell Westbrook." — @stephenasmith
[The Bucks are] also in pursuit of Rockets forwards Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker; Houston doesn’t have a pick in this draft and is moving toward a retooling period with Russell Westbrook wanting out.

http://twitter.com/Stadium/status/1326919768197173250
Rachel Nichols: How tradeable is Russell Westbrook's contract? We asked @ZachLowe_NBA today as part of our Houston discussion - here was his intel on possible trade destinations like the Knicks and Clippers:
In a conversation on ESPN’s The Jump, veteran NBA insider Zach Lowe said this of the current situation between the Rockets and their stars: From what I’ve heard today, the Rockets are trying to remain calm. There’s nothing imminent. They think they can repair whatever needs to be repaired, and enter next season with both of these guys on the team, and hopefully get off to a strong start.
In essence, one source said, Westbrook would like to see something closer to the Thunder culture that he helped create during his time in Oklahoma City from 2008 to 2019 as a way of making him more comfortable. The organization, in turn, has been receptive to these requests and is focused on building the sort of environment that functions better for everyone — Westbrook included.
But the removal of these key components — D’Antoni departing for an assistant coaching position in Brooklyn and Morey becoming president of basketball operations in Philadelphia — has left serious doubt in both Harden and Westbrook’s minds of an ability to sustain long-term success, sources said. Although Harden and Westbrook were kept abreast of decisions and offered input, both players are in win-now mode and have raised questions as to whether or not that same mindset is shared with the front office, sources said.
As the Houston Rockets navigate an offseason of major change, a new challenge is emerging for the franchise -- the uncertainty of former MVP guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook on their futures with the team, sources tell ESPN.
The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers are interested in trading for Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook, Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer said on The Mismatch podcast (5:45 mark) Tuesday: "It is interesting the last 24 hours. I did have multiple sources that I trust tell me that teams believe Russell Westbrook could be had—that Westbrook could be had—and I've heard the Clippers have interest, I've heard the Knicks have interest in Westbrook, and whether anything materializes there, who knows? Who knows? But the fact is that there is a belief that a guy like Westbrook could become available."

http://twitter.com/ringernba/status/1326318401623453696
With Houston general manager Daryl Morey stepping down a year after his controversial retweet about China/Hong Kong, league sources believe the Rockets are likelier to look into trading away explosive All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. While Thunder guard Chris Paul and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo have captured Knicks president Leon Rose’s fancy, Knicks executives likely would turn some of their attention toward Texas if Westbrook is placed on the market. The Rockets reportedly will promote executive vice president Rafael Stone to GM.
With Houston president Daryl Morey stepping down a year after his controversial retweet about China/Hong Kong, league sources believe the Rockets are likelier to look into trading away explosive All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.
“I can’t imagine they are keeping Harden and Russ together,’’ one NBA executive said. “Russ excels best as the best player on a team and Harden needs outside shooters around him – not a ball-dominant guard. I think Russ will be the one traded.’’
The more explosive Westbrook probably is better equipped to carry the load for a team than Paul, who is a playmaker but not a one-man wrecking ball of a scorer. Reportedly, OKC’s asking price for Paul is very high and some league officials believe he’d prefer a title contender.
Something else to keep an eye on: some agents who represent top point guard free agents believe the Knicks would poke around on a potential Russell Westbrook trade if Houston makes him available. It’s worth noting that Westbrook, per sources, saw New York as a welcome landing spot last summer when Oklahoma City was talking to teams about potential trades.
"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.”
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.
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"
“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.”
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.
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January 26, 2021 | 2:01 am EST Update

Nets hoping for Andre Drummond buyout?

Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported on a podcast with Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, that the Nets have their eyes on Drummond who’s playing on an expiring $28.7 million contract. ”People around the league say the Nets are hoping that Andre Drummond, the Cavs center, gets bought out. That’s what people say they’re hoping for but that’s unlikely because Cleveland is still in it,” referring to the playoff hunt.
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John Wall: 'They thought I was done'

“I just wish I would have known up front and not have to beat around the bush to figure things out. That’s just my motivation there. They thought I was done. Basically, that’s how I feel. This is my opportunity to show them that I’m not done. But the most important thing for me is get the win. I don’t care how many numbers I have, it’s about getting the win. That’s the most important thing because if I get 40 and then we lose, the trade don’t look as bad from their aspect because they beat us that one game they did play us. So, my ultimate goal is to try to get a win for my team tomorrow.”
Well, that’s going to be hard to imagine once you hear his extended thoughts on playing the Wizards on Tuesday, which he shared with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller. Now with the Rockets, Wall admitted facing the Wizards is personal after how his exit was handled, and that he is out for revenge. “Just seeing everybody that’s over there, a lot of people that’s on that side that probably didn’t believe I could come back to be the person I am. And probably some people that had a little say so into me being traded,” Wall told Miller. “I feel like it was a whole process and it wasn’t just something that happened overnight. I think this was in the works. That’s my motivation. Who wouldn’t want to beat the team that traded them and felt like I was done?”
“Most importantly, all I really wanted from the start of all of it was just to be told the truth. That’s the most important thing and what made it so hard for me to understand what was going on because I wasn’t told the truth. I understand it’s a business and things go on and people move on and you get traded, organizations in different ways. When I heard the rumors, I called and asked are these true or are these something not to worry about? From that day forward, all I heard was ‘no, those rumors aren’t true, don’t worry about it.’ In all reality, it was true,” Wall said.
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