By Chad Cooper
The craziest free agency season in the NBA just got crazier. Chalk this up as a stunner.
Reports in the offseason that Houston Rockets’ stars James Harden and Chris Paul were not getting along may have been justified as the Rockets have shipped the 34-year-old Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook along with 2024, 2026 first-round picks, pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
As reports earlier in the day of trade snags with the Miami Heat, Westbrook, the NBA MVP in 2017, wanted to “reunite” with Harden and the trade was made.
Westbrook has been vocal to OKC management that he was open to a trade after Paul George was set to the LA Clippers to join Kawhi Leonard. It was only obvious the Thunder are in full rebound mode and will have a ton of draft picks over the next several seasons.
Harden and Westbrook were teammates in OKC from 2009-12. They reached the finals in 2012 (with Kevin Durant) but lost to the Heat in 5 games.
After another playoff loss to Golden State in consecutive seasons, Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta vowed to get better. The Rockets missed out on Jimmy Butler, again, but waited and now have a player who has averaged a triple-double every game for the last three seasons while Harden is coming off a career-best 36.1 ppg. in Houston.
Westbrook brings with him a massive contract. According to Spotrac, Westbrook, who will be 31 in November, has 3 years $124 million plus a $47 million player option in 2022 left.
While Paul has been a notorious playmaker, he has also been riddled with injuries. He helped the Rockets to a No. 1 seed in 2018 and franchise-best 65 wins, but suffered a hamstring injury in the playoffs when Houston lead Golden State 3-2 in the conference finals. He missed the next two games and the Warriors won the series 4-3.
And speaking of insane contracts, Paul robbed the Rockets’ bank with a $159 million extension after the 2018 season. Houston needed to dump that and they did just that.
While Houston sat and watched big moves made by the Lakers, Clippers and even the Warriors (despite losing KD), the Rockets needed to make a move now.
Rockets management are letting the boys are get the band back together. Imagine the post game press conference clothing swag of Harden and Westbrook…
Rockets, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Trailblazers and Zion. Can’t wait to rubberneck the Western Conference.