The Houston Rockets have gone through a lot of change in the last few months. Head coach Mike D’Antoni left the organization and has been replaced with Stephen Silas. Longtime general manager Daryl Morey also departed and the Rockets promoted former general counsel and executive VP of basketball operations Rafael Stone to replace him.
That’s a lot of major change in a short time, and it reportedly has two of the team’s major stars worried that their window to contend is closing. And the team is reportedly concerned that those two players won’t be as committed to the team as they were now that things are changing.
Westbrook, Harden share concerns
Longtime Rockets star James Harden and the recently acquired Russell Westbrook have both communicated their concerns about the future of the team to both their representation and Rockets leadership, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon. They’re both reportedly worried about the direction of the franchise, and that their window to contend and win a championship is closing.
These concerns aren’t coming out of thin air. Beyond the uncertainty that comes with a new GM and head coach, the Rockets have some serious issues on the horizon. They’ve leveraged their future somewhat in their push to field a contender, giving up both young talent and draft picks to trade for Westbrook and Robert Covington. They don’t have a first-round pick in 2020, and the Oklahoma City Thunder have limited claims on their first-round picks in 2021, 2024, 2025 and 2026.
Rockets worried about commitment of Westbrook, Harden
Westbrook and Harden’s reported concerns are definitely legitimate, since most good/contending teams don’t change both their head coach and general manager in the same offseason. But hearing those concerns has apparently spooked Rockets leadership, who are now reportedly worried that one or both of them could eventually request a trade.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, recently promoted general manager Rafael Stone and recently hired head coach Stephen Silas have emphasized that the franchise remains committed to fielding a contender while featuring the two perennial All-Stars in their primes. However, the concerns expressed by Harden and Westbrook that Houston's window as a contender could be closing has left the organization fearful that the superstars' commitment to remaining with the Rockets could be wavering.
Despite the changes in leadership, Fertitta has said that the team is committed to contending, which has been echoed by Silas and Stone. But talk is cheap — saying that isn’t the same thing as doing it.
For example, Fertitta has said numerous times that he doesn’t care about paying the luxury tax, which he’d almost certainly have to do if the Rockets want to improve their team next season. But in the three seasons Fertitta has owned the team, he’s avoided it. If Fertitta, Stone, and Silas want Harden and Westbrook to be totally committed to the team, they have to prove that they deserve that commitment.
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