Following their blown 3-1 lead to Denver, executives around the league wondered if the Clippers might panic and do something rash, such as trade for Russell Westbrook. Instead, they’ve made minor tweaks to the roster and coaching staff, replacing Doc Rivers with his assistant, Ty Lue. These new faces might not be any better on paper, but the blend could work better on the court. It’ll take more time to find out.
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However, the two sides were able to get a deal done Wednesday night and some of the credit can go to Westbrook’s agent Thad Foucher. “The two general managers hadn’t talked in weeks, but Russell Westbrook’s agent Thad Foucher really got them back, got them talking to day and within a few hours, they had a deal,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski told Scott Van Pelt.
Unlike Houston’s rightful reluctance to trade Harden, the Rockets’ new front office searched far and wide for Westbrook destinations as soon as he expressed that he didn’t want to be there anymore, according to multiple league sources. Houston viewed Westbrook’s desire to leave as a blessing in disguise. Trading him provides another opportunity to make Harden happy again. Many members of the Rockets’ organization believe Harden doesn’t actually want to leave, he just wants to win a title. The Rockets need to prove to Harden they’re the franchise best suited to help him win one before his contract can expire in 2022.
Russell Westbrook was an All-NBA selection in 19-20, but he received very little trade interest as he sought a trade from the Houston Rockets. “There. Was. No. Market. For. Russell. Westbrook,” said Zach Lowe on his podcast one day after the trade. “I kept saying this over and over again. The Clippers were not interested. 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.”
Trade discussions with the Hornets ended once it became apparent they’d select LaMelo Ball in the draft, and interest from the Knicks eventually fizzled, league sources say. That left the Wizards, a franchise dealing with its own challenges involving another polarizing point guard making over $40 million per year.
Michael C. Wright: Stephen Silas said he hasn’t talked to James Harden since the Westbrook trade. “When stuff like this kind of happens, I kind of take a step back and allow guys some space. That’s kind of where it’s been as far as my communication with him.”
HoopsHype spoke with one general manager, three executives, and an NBA scout for their reactions to the blockbuster trade and what it means for the players and their new teams. “It’s a wash,” one Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “Both teams needed to make a trade. Washington has to give up a pick because Wall has a bigger injury history and hasn’t played in two years. The contracts were the same. Russ should be really good in the East. Scotty (Brooks) should know how to use him. Washington will be better than they were since Russ is actually playing and Wall hasn’t been. I think Washington is for sure a playoff team.”
“The trade seemed inevitable,” another Eastern Conference executive told 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.”
After playing against Harden in pick-up games and showing some explosion, one scout believes his fit next to Harden in the backcourt should be a good transition. “I think it was time for a fresh start for both,” an NBA scout told HoopsHype. “I like Russell going to Washington and giving them an opportunity to keep Brad happy. Scott Brooks knows how to use him, and he’ll be the lead guard. Houston getting Wall and playing him with Harden seems similar to the fit with Russell. Obviously, there’s a real unknown about how good he’ll be back from injury. I think Washington got the better of the trade but let’s see what Wall’s status is.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Russell Westbrook wanted to be in Washington, reunited with Scott Brooks, play with Brad Beal and John Wall wanted to play with James Harden, wanted to go to Houston. And finally they got that deal done.
Michael Lee: Someone close to Russell Westbrook told me DC was his preferred destination. Russ was intrigued about playing with Bradley Beal & excited to reunite with Scott Brooks. I can’t remember a guy coming off an All-NBA season who preferred to play for the Wizards, so there’s that…
Initial trade talks stalled over draft capital and the possibility of other players included in a deal — for instance, young big man Thomas Bryant —before both teams could come to terms on an agreement. In the end, it was a simple Westbrook-for-Wall swap with the addition of a heavily protected first-round pick. Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard declared a week ago that the Wizards had no plans on trading Wall and the Rockets were prepared to enter camp with Westbrook, but situations in the NBA are always fluid and can change on a dime — a phone call is all it takes.
John Hollinger: Important: Houston will receive a trade exception for a whopping $103,894. (There are theoretical examples where a team could use an exception this small, but I mean, not real ones).
The Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets have agreed to trade two disgruntled star point guards, John Wall and Russell Westbrook, in a blockbuster deal, sources told ESPN. The Wizards are sending Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick to the Rockets for Westbrook in a deal that both players wanted and had been simmering for weeks, sources said.
Discussions had been stalled since mid-November, sources said, until the two general managers, Washington’s Tommy Sheppard and Houston’s Rafael Stone, decided to get on the phone Tuesday afternoon. They worked out a deal within hours, sources said.
For the Wizards and Rockets, there’s hope that the exchange of guards will play a role in convincing the two franchise shooting guards on each team, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Houston’s James Harden, to want to stay long-term with their teams. Harden has privately asked for a trade, and Beal could become a free agent in 2021.
Houston’s stance on Harden has not changed, a high-ranking Rockets source told ESPN, saying the team hoped to be competitive with the perennial MVP candidate on the roster this season and does not envision a scenario in which Harden would be traded before the opener. The Rockets have let it be known that they would require a return that included a young, potential franchise cornerstone and a massive picks package in any potential deal for Harden, according to sources.
Sources said that Westbrook cited a desire to “play my game” and concerns about the Rockets’ casual culture. Westbrook was a third-team All-NBA selection during his season with the Rockets, averaging 27.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game, despite getting off to a slow start while recovering from knee surgery and adapting to a new franchise following an 11-year tenure in Oklahoma City.
Jamal Crawford: That was great for both teams.
Chase Hughes: Regarding Russell Westbrook and the No. 0. Other players have come in and asked to wear it and have been told ‘no’ because it was Gilbert Arenas’ number. Those players, however, were not Russell Westbrook. So, we’ll see.
Enes Kanter: Good Luck Brodie @Russell Westbrook 💪 pic.twitter.com/KJUS6LaCRS
DeMarcus Cousins: 😏 [Cousins reacts to the John Wall trade on social media.]
Bobby Marks: The swap of the super max extensions: Russell Westbrook to Washington – $41.4M, $44.2M and $47.1M (P). John Wall to Houston – $41.3M, $44.3M and $47.4M (P).
Adrian Wojnarowski: Houston has agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
Shams Charania: Source confirms: Houston traded Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 protected first-round pick.
Concerning Harden, the Nets and 76ers were strong suitors weeks ago but Houston is refusing to talk turkey with anyone — and they don’t have to. With Westbrook, the problem for imagining a trade with him as the centerpiece is there just isn’t that robust of a market for him right now. The teams that might have made sense have all seemingly gone in other directions — Detroit drafting Kilian Hayes, Charlotte drafting LaMelo Ball, New York signing Austin Rivers (kidding).
Shams Charania on Russell Westbrook trade rumors: The Rockets engaged with several teams during draft/free agency week. (…) They talked to Cleveland, I’m told.
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.
Bill Simmons: I thought Westbrook was going to Washington. And I had heard that Bradley Beal was driving the Westbrook thing and that they were actually going to include a pick potentially and it wasn’t just a one-for-one that they were actually putting in more.
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.
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!
Shams Charania: As Rockets/Wizards talks on Russell Westbrook-for-John Wall stall, Wall has made it clear he wants trade out of Washington to happen, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Chris Haynes: Yahoo Sources: The Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic had discussed a trade featuring Russell Westbrook for a package centered around Aaron Gordon, but talks never progressed.
Kelly Iko on Westbrook-to-Wizards rumors: I had heard that. Houston also wanted Thomas Bryant if that was going to be the case.
The Charlotte Hornets and the Knicks have registered the most substantive trade interest in Houston’s Russell Westbrook. It must be emphasized, though, that both teams have expressed conditional rather than aggressive interest.
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.”
The Houston Rockets feel no pressure to trade James Harden or Russell Westbrook regardless of the superstars’ strong desire for fresh starts with different franchises and are “willing to get uncomfortable” as training camp opens and the season begins, sources told ESPN.
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.
Shams Charania: The Rockets and Wizards have discussed a deal centered on Russell Westbrook for John Wall, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. No traction yet, Rockets are seeking more assets.
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.
Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak wouldn’t directly address whether he’d be interested in acquiring Russell Westbrook. But speaking generically, Kupchak didn’t sound like trading for a veteran star veteran was likely right now. “Does it make sense to add a big-time veteran player? At first glance, you might say no,” Kupchak said in a pre-draft media call Friday. “But it is my job to research every opportunity. If it’s something I feel needs pursuing, I’d pursue it and bring it to ownership.”
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.”
“Some of the (media) reports that are released are accurate and some aren’t,” Kupchak said of speculation surrounding the draft and free-agency. “It is my job to take every call from every general manager. Ninety-five percent of the time, there’s really not much to discuss.”
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
Hoop Central: According to @WindhorstESPN, he has “surveyed a significant part of the league” today and doesn’t believe there is a lot of interest in Russell Westbrook trades.
[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.
Stadium: The Hornets have emerged as a potential suitor for Rockets All-Star Russell Westbrook, sources tell our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania .
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April 12, 2021 | 9:38 pm EDT Update
Michael Singer: Jamal Murray is available for tonight’s game vs. Golden State, I’m told. He’s missed the last four games with right knee soreness.