It is already scheduled to be the shortest NBA offseason on record. It might as well be the most tumultuous.
Following reports at the end of the week that Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook is unhappy with the direction that the team has taken, we now have a report that his fellow Houston backcourt star, James Harden, is also considering his future and has the Brooklyn Nets rising on his list of potential trade destinations.
Just like that, one of the teams considered, for most of last year, to be a potential challenger to the Lakers in the Western Conference could wind up utterly obliterated. The Rockets, remember, went all-in on their small-ball concept at the trading deadline when they gave up center Clint Capela and brought in wing Robert Covington, who became the starting lineup’s tallest player at 6-foot-7.
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That made Houston a wildcard in the NBA’s championship chase. But the Rockets, after winning the series opener in the conference semifinals against the Lakers, lost four straight and their status as a serious challenger quickly melted away.
Rockets Upheaval Clears Lakers Path in Western Conference
It has been all upheaval since then for Houston. Coach Mike D’Antoni, who had been in the final year of his contract, announced from the team plane after the loss to the Lakers that he would not be returning to the Rockets. He, interestingly, signed on as an assistant coach on the Brooklyn staff. Steve Nash is the team’s new head coach.
Shortly thereafter, thereafter, the team’s general manager, Daryl Morey, also parted ways with the team. The Rockets now have a rookie head coach, longtime assistant Stephen Silas, and are without Morey making front-office decisions for the first time since 2006.
Morey said that after reflecting on his time in Houston after Rockets wrapped up their time in the NBA’s so-called bubble environment, he decided to leave the organization. He did not address long-simmering talk of tensions between he and owner Tillman Fertitta.
Tilman and I have had many conversations since I returned, and his unwavering support and counsel during our time together has been critical to our success,” Morey said in a statement. “It has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life to lead the Rockets basketball organization, and I look forward to working with Tilman and the management team on the transition. I am very confident that the future – for the Rockets, and for our incredible fans – is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level.”
Morey is now the general manager of the Sixers.
Trading James Harden No Easy Task
As with Westbrook, trading Harden might be easier said than done for the Rockets. Harden is the most gifted scorer in the game these days, but he is poor on the defensive end and comes with a sizable price tag—he is signed for three years and $120 million.
For the Nets to work a trade for him, they would have to give up a handful of players, starting with Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert, two talented young scorers. The Nets would need to include DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple to make the math work, and add draft picks to entice Houston into a deal.
That is shaping up to be a longshot. But if Harden does want to be traded and Brooklyn is the destination he wants, the sides likely will find a way to make it happen.
Harden would join stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, a fearsome offensive trio that would be worth watching in the East. Former Laker Josh Hart let his feelings on that be known.
For the Lakers, though, the important thing would be that Harden is out of the West and can’t do much damage anymore. At least, not until the teams faced off in the Finals.