The Houston Rockets have been one of the top contenders in the Western Conference for several years, but they could be heading toward the bottom of the table sooner than later.
First, the Rockets lost to the Lakers in the second round of the 2020 playoffs. Then, head coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey both left the team after the 2020 season. Now the roster is falling apart at the seams, as Russell Westbrook has openly asked for a trade, and other players are becoming fed up with the franchise.
Turmoil in the Rockets’ locker room
When the Rockets were bounced from the playoffs in the second round, their problems on the court were evident. But what was happening behind closed doors is even more worrisome.
According to Kelly Iko, Sam Amick, and Shams Charania of The Athletic, Houston was dealing with turmoil in the locker room all season. It all started with a player meeting in January in which Russell Westbrook called out players on the team one-by-one.
Many saw it as constructive criticism, but James Harden surely didn’t.
“A large chunk of the angst, however, stems from a lack of accountability, sources said. During the January locker room meeting following a home loss to Portland, Westbrook, who was leading the meeting, went around the room indicating what was wrong and what each player needed to do to fix the losing streak, starting with himself, sources said. When it came to Harden, however, he wasn’t as receptive to criticism as other teammates, sources said.”
Meanwhile, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Austin Rivers were growing frustrated with a variety of factors, according to The Athletic. Gordon and Rivers were unhappy with their roles on the team, and Tucker was “irate” about his contract situation all year.
Russell Westbrook has asked for a trade
After what sounds like a nightmare of a season, Russell Westbrook has had enough of the drama in Houston. The All-Star point guard has requested a trade from the Rockets, according to Charania.
A few teams have already expressed interest in Westbrook, including the Charlotte Hornets. With their head coach, GM, and star point guard most likely all departing from the team, the Rockets will have a whole different look next year.
The Rockets are headed for a disastrous offseason
The Rockets will be the most interesting team to watch once the 2020-21 season gets underway in December. Harden reportedly remains loyal to the franchise, but that can’t be said for Westbrook, Tucker, Gordon, and Rivers. We could see a complete overhaul in Houston within a few weeks.
The Rockets have done everything in their power to build a championship contender that could rival the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. They thought they found the secret recipe when they paired Harden with Chris Paul. Then again when they swapped Paul with Westbrook.
But Houston couldn’t even reach the NBA Finals with their retooled rosters, and their window to get there seems to be already closed.