The Houston Rockets have become a highly dysfunctional franchise over the last several weeks ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. Much of the issues have arisen around James Harden‘s unhappiness with the franchise leading him to demand a trade. The situation has already seen Russell Westbrook depart after one season. Another report has surfaced that may have brought clarity as to what Westbrook wanted out.
The Rockets’ star backcourt pairing quickly fell apart
When the Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook last offseason, the hope was that bringing in another former league MVP would be the missing piece.
Beyond adding another bonafide star, Westbrook holds a long friendship with James Harden that dates back to their childhood. The two both played for the same Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South Central LA.
Despite the deep-rooted connection between the two star point guards, things quickly unfolded in Houston. The internal friction became too much to overcome after one season, leading to Westbrook demanding a trade that resulted in a move to the Washington Wizards.
As things progress along toward the upcoming season, more details continue to arise. There is now much more clarity as to what may have driven Westbrook away.
Russell Westbrook grew irate with James Harden’s behavior
Since the Rockets elected to part ways with Russell Westbrook after one season, much has come out concerning the situation.
Unsurprisingly, there was lingering tension that didn’t see any resolution, guiding the matter toward a breaking point. In a deep-dive piece by Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Westbrook quickly developed internal issues with how his longtime friend operated on and off the court.
The All-Star guard experienced a notable change in the culture once he arrived to the Rockets. The Oklahoma City Thunder operated strictly that reportedly compared to a “military unit.” Houston took a much different approach by giving Harden much leeway with tardiness and excuses that didn’t rub Westbrook the right way.
On incident described in the piece saw Harden wait until the last second to get his daily COVID-19 testing before a team film session in the Orlando Bubble. The situation bothered Westbrook enough to voice to then-head coach Mike D’Antoni to start the meeting, which he responded that they would have to start over once Harden arrived.
There are likely many more instances that ticked off Westbrook to move for a departure. The situation is another shining example that the Rockets’ problems run quite deep.
Uncertainty remains around Houston
Following Russell Westbrook’s departure, the Rockets are picking up the pieces with their standing with James Harden.
There are already reports surfacing that Harden doesn’t believe John Wall is enough to keep him in Houston. The 31-year-old has made his feeling concerning the situation quickly known through his recent behavior that he wants a trade.
The Rockets are in no rush to get a deal done on Harden’s desired time frame, which likely will see things drag out throughout the upcoming season. The organization has already publicly voiced they want to move forward with the former league MVP remaining in the fold. The franchise may work behind the scenes to find the appropriate trade that doesn’t put them in a rut.
Houston has become a playoff constant since Harden’s arrival, but the inability to push past the Western Conference Finals has led the situation to a breaking point. The entire matter lies in the Rockets’ hands to find a resolution that best works for both sides.