The air of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Houston Rockets remains as rumors of tension between star players James Harden and Russell Westbrook build with the Rockets Front office. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Harden is interested in taking his talents to Brooklyn and joining forces with Nets’ star players Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Though Harden has yet to verify any of these rumors outright, he did turn down the offer from the Rockets to make $50 million a year. He would have been the first player in the history of the league to make $50 million a year and his rejection of that offer sends a pretty clear message of his displeasure with the organization. Sources note that so far there hasn’t been any meaningful dialogue surrounding a trade for Harden. It’s unlikely that anything will come of it any time soon as he is still under contract. According to a report by “The Athletic,” Westbrook wants out of Houston and has voiced concerns about the “team’s accountability and culture and wants to join a team where he can have a role similar to his prior, floor-general role in Oklahoma City.” According to sources, preliminary talks have begun between the Washington Wizards and the Rockets about a potential trade between Westbrook and John Wall. Now to lose a talent like Westbrook whose athleticism and durability make him even more of an invaluable asset, the Rockets would have to get much more in return.
It appears that the fractures between players and the front office have left the team in a precarious position. While the team is under no obligation to yield to the demands of their star players, that is absolutely the new wave of the NBA. Players have more say in where they go. When money is no longer an object due to the multiple streams of income a lot of the superstars have, quality of life trumps everything. There is a certain amount of transparency between players and the front office that is necessary to maintain a comfortable work environment. The chaos that ensued post-playoff bubble ball with the loss of Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni was an early indicator that a storm was brewing in Houston. The word on the street is that these major moves were not run by Harden who is fully focused on winning a title. Having the structures in place (coach/GM) uprooted only to begin a process of rebuilding again can be viewed as disrespectful to a player of Harden’s caliber.
The Rockets may feel the pressure of the public gaze but are under no obligation to make any hasty moves. It will be interesting to watch what happens this upcoming season.