The NBA rumour mill is continuing to stack gossip now that we’re a less than two weeks away from free agency and the trading period. We should get more as we get closer.
One of the latest involves the Houston Rockets, particularly Russell Westbrook, one-half of the team’s polarizing superstar tandem – James Harden being the other one, obviously.
The report was revealed earlier today on The Mismatch podcast by Chris Vernon and Kevin O’Connor. Here’s what the latter said:
I did have multiple sources that I trust tell me that teams believe Russell Westbrook ‘could be had’ … I’ve heard the LA Clippers and New York Knicks have interest. Whether anything materializes there, who knows? But, the fact is, there is a belief that a guy like Westbrook can be available.Kevin O’Connor
Let’s run things back just in case other have forgotten. No one will blame those who did, it’s a pretty crazy year.
The Rockets showed promise in the 2019-20 campaign after going all-in on their small-ball experiment. Halfway into the season, they traded their lone quality big man, Clint Capela, for Robert Covington, who is not a center but is a good fit to the system. Although the expected stumbles occurred, they ended up looking good heading into the playoffs, which was good… until they crashed and burned.
Houston barely got past the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, and while many thought it was only because of Westbrook being sidelined for the first four games, he eventually proved to be a liability more than anything.
In the ensuing round, the Rockets were eliminated by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in a five-game backdoor sweep, with the supposedly explosive guard getting grounded for much of the series. Westbrook was particularly terrible in Game 5 – facing elimination, he only scored 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting, and spent more time talking trash to the Lakers and the crowd.
Then, the architects of the small-ball and analytics left (head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey) and were replaced by a new regime, which then brings us to today. Westbrook, who’s just three-years removed from a monster MVP season and had three-straight seasons averaging a triple-double (2016-2019), is just a mere trade chip.
Does it make sense to break the Harden-Westbrook duo after just one season?
For selfish, fan-related reasons, yes, it’s always fun to have a blockbuster shake-up. It’ll be very, very interesting to see Westbrook go to his hometown and team up with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (or maybe just Kawhi). New York would be intriguing as well since he’ll bring attention back to the Big Apple and be a mentor for young sensation RJ Barrett.
Overall, though, it doesn’t sound right. They are two former MVPs who are still in their primes and get along pretty well. The Rockets also invested a lot to get Westbrook, so why not run it back?
What it they simply faced a Laker team that was poised for a title? What if Harden and Westbrook’s tandem is actually elite but it just doesn’t fit the small-ball system? They should at least have the chance to make it work under a different playing style, which they’ll get with new coach Stephen Silas, who’s been around the block as an assistant.
Well, we shall see in the next couple of weeks. Free agency should have firecrackers again.