The offseason has quickly turned upside down for the Houston Rockets, fueled by plenty of internal conflicts. Star guard Russell Westbrook has already requested a trade after completing his first year with the franchise. The Rockets are now hit with former league MVP James Harden doing the same with his desire to play with particular franchises.
The Rockets’ internal issues arising
Over the last few weeks, the chatter around the Rockets has continued to trend toward much internal conflict.
The entire dialogue began after head coach Mike D’Antoni elected not to pick up his contract’s final year. Shortly after that, general manager Daryl Morey chose to step down from the position he held for over the last decade.
The problems haven’t stopped there as recent reports surfaced that All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook wants out of Houston. Westbrook has just finished his first campaign with the Rockets, which saw things unravel in the playoffs that led to another disappointing exit.
The organization mortgaged their long-term future to acquire the former league MVP last offseason. Beyond trading Chris Paul, the team moved first-round pick in 2024 and 2026 while pick swapping in 2021 and 2025.
Houston’s issues have continued to evolve to the point where James Harden has now voiced his desire for a trade this offseason.
James Harden has two preferred trade destinations
The Rockets are about to head down a path they certainly didn’t envision a year ago after acquiring Russell Westbrook.
The franchise has gone from NBA title hopes to an anticipated full-scale implosion with the core group of their roster. Things have now gone from bad to worse with Shams Charania of The Athletic reporting that James Harden has demanded a trade to either the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers.
The desire to join the 76ers may be linked to the franchise recently hiring Morey as their president of basketball operations. He will also have the opportunity to play alongside either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, depending on who the Rockets demand.
Meanwhile, the Nets were recently mentioned as a trade destination, which can be linked to Harden’s strong connection to Kevin Durant. The two All-Star spent a few years together with the Oklahoma City Thunder, including pushing the franchise to an NBA Finals appearance.
Harden may not have the final say over the Rockets’ decision-making, but his intentions could impact the route taken. The 31-year-old is in the second year of his four-year, $171 million deal that runs through the 2022-23 season.
Change is imminent in Houston
Beyond James Harden’s trade demands becoming known publicly, the reports signal that there will be some significant change in Houston.
The team’s two All-Star talents want out, while internal chatter has indicated that several other players on the roster are unhappy with their roles and contract situations. The Rockets are grasping at straws this offseason, but the writing is already on the wall.
The franchise may be open to keeping both James Harden and Russell Westbrook through next season, but it’s only prolonging the inevitable. The Rockets are in the position to start over with a new sense of direction. Although their former NBA MVPs possesses massive contracts, each could draw a significant haul in return.
Houston can acquire expiring contracts, young talent, and potentially multiple draft picks for the next few years. The franchise has had its chances to compete for an NBA title but has fallen well short of those aspirations in each instance.
All that points to it being a matter of time before the Rockets have to commit to a total rebuild.