ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith explained why Houston Rockets GM Rafael Stone had difficulty finding a trade partner for Russell Westbrook.
For the second consecutive offseason the Houston Rockets made a blockbuster trade, swapping one star point guard for another. In 2019 the Rockets opted to officially end the James Harden and Chris Paul marriage that nearly won a title in their first season together, bringing in 2016-17 MVP Russell Westbrook, who had a better off the court relationship with Harden.
Both players made the All-NBA team and were named All-Stars but Harden ultimately saw his second divorce in as many years, as the Rockets dealt Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for former All-NBA and All-Defense point guard John Wall. Although the Rockets had been rumored and expected to keep Westbrook through the start of the season, things changed rather quickly, as is oftentimes the case in the NBA.
Westbrook’s market had reportedly been dwindling, in spite of his most efficient season to date, in part because of his supermax contract that pays him no less than $40 million in each of the next three seasons. But there’s also another reason why Westbrook’s market was so low, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
Smith was on ESPN’s First Take and explained a chief reason for Westbrook’s limited number of interested suitors.
“They tried to get rid of Russ, and according to sources, a lot of folks didn’t want Russ because Russ can be fiery and very strong-willed and strong-headed.
And because of that, basketball operations folks may not have wanted to deal with him. So the Houston Rockets might have felt that they got the best deal they could.”
Rockets had difficulty trading Westbrook because of perceived bad attitude
Westbrook has been described by many in the media as a malcontent, although many of his teammates have provided a much different account. We’ve even heard about how Westbrook once helped a former teammate battle mental illness.
Westbrook was the model citizen in Houston, as Rockets sideline reporter Cayleigh Griffin explained how he was easy to work with, contrary to what she had been told about him prior to working with him. Westbrook has also been billed as a stand-up guy, as he reportedly left a generous tip of $8,000 upon leaving the NBA’s bubble in Orlando.
The trade now reunites Westbrook with former Houston Rockets guard and current Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who worked together with the Oklahoma City Thunder for seven years, as Brooks got his first NBA head coaching job in OKC in 2008-09, which coincidentally happened to be Westbrook’s rookie season.
The trade has also been another example of the Rockets franchise giving James Harden what he wants, as he reportedly preferred Wall over Westbrook. We’ll have to see how it all shakes out, but if one thing is for certain, it’s that both Westbrook and Wall are both eager to prove doubters wrong, as Wall is recovering from a significant injury and Westbrook’s last images on the court were also indicative of an injury-riddled version of himself, not to mention the fact that many teams in the league weren’t interested in his services.