After ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier Thursday evening that the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to trade Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul, first-round picks in the 2024 and 2026 drafts as well as pick swaps for 2021 and 2025, ESPN's Brian Windhorst explained that Westbrook and Harden have wanted to reunite.
"From what I understand, the night that the [Paul George] trade went down, that [Westbrook and Harden] got on the phone together and started working on it," Windhorst said on a new episode of The Hoop Collective Podcast Thursday night (h/t NBA on ESPN).
Wojnarowski had earlier tweeted something along the same lines, noting that Westbrook's preferred trade outcome was a reunion with Harden in Houston.
George had requested to be traded from the Thunder to the Los Angeles Clippers, which was executed over the weekend to team George up with Kawhi Leonard. Following George's sudden exit, Wojnarowski reported Saturday that Westbrook was engaged with Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti about the "possibility of a trade" before the 2019-2020 season.
Less than a week later, the eight-time All-Star is set to leave the only franchise he's ever known and become a Rocket—just as Harden did in 2012.
Harden and Westbrook played together alongside Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City from 2009-2012 until Harden moved to the Rockets.
The trio made it to the 2012 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Miami Heat in five games.
Westbrook had been linked to the Heat this week, with ESPN's Tim Bontemps going so far as to report Wednesday that some in the league believed the 30-year-old point guard landing in Miami was an "inevitability."
In the end, the prospect of playing again with such a prolific scorer in Harden must have been too enticing, not to mention the fact that the Rockets are much closer to competing for an NBA title than the Heat, who didn't make the playoffs last season and haven't made it out of the first round since 2015-16.
With Harden and Paul leading the backcourt, the Rockets have had their hopes dashed two seasons in a row by the Golden State Warriors—last season in the conference semifinals and the season before in the Western Conference Finals. Adding an offensive playmaker like Westbrook in a reloaded Western Conference is a no-brainer.
The question will now become how the two will learn to play together once more as each has evolved into a primary ball-handler and scorer since those early days in Oklahoma City.
It’ll be fun to watch Harden, Westbrook and the Rockets navigate it all regardless.