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Russell Westbrook Talks James Harden, Fit with Rockets at Introductory Presser

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2019

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) gestures to the crowd in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Oklahoma City. Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history to have 20 points, 20 rebounds and 20 assists in a game as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 119-103. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Russell Westbrook was officially introduced Saturday as one of the newest members of the Houston Rockets during a press conference at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Westbrook was joined by general manager Daryl Morey at the presser, which was closed to everyone except media members.

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Russell Westbrook is a member of the @HoustonRockets! 🚀 https://t.co/Lkinuvb6vl

After the Oklahoma City Thunder surprisingly traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, Westbrook became available. Houston jumped at the opportunity to land the 2017 NBA MVP and sent Chris Paul, two first-round picks and the right to swap two future first-round picks to OKC.

The biggest question raised when Houston acquired Westbrook was how he would mesh with 2018 NBA MVP James Harden given how ball-dominant both players are, and Westbrook addressed that Friday.

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“We understand what we have to do.” — Russell Westbrook discusses how he and James Harden plan to work together in Houston https://t.co/LyTwOOpSBY

"To able to win you gotta be able to sacrifice some parts of your game, and we both understand that. We both understand that we have one common goal and that's to win a championship, so we understand what we have to do. I'm not worried about it, I know James is not worried about it. I can play off the ball. I don't have to touch the ball to impact the game. ... I can do other things on the floor to make sure we have a better chance of winning."

Westbrook and Harden were teammates for three seasons with the Thunder from 2009-10 through 2011-12 before OKC traded Harden to Houston. During their time together in Oklahoma City, Harden was the third offensive option behind Kevin Durant and Westbrook.

Harden has blossomed into a superstar with the Rockets, leading the NBA in scoring in each of the past two seasons.

With Harden coming into his own, Westbrook said he relishes the chance to join forces with him once again in Houston:

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Russell Westbrook: “Being able to come here and reunite with James [Harden] is another great chapter in my life.” https://t.co/JAyXikwwh4

"It's an amazing opportunity [to team up with Harden]," Westbrook said. "To reunite with James is another amazing chapter in my career. We have a great organization, group of guys, front office, coaching staff, and an opportunity to do great things."

Westbrook also acknowledged that Harden played a role in getting the ball rolling on bringing him to Houston and called Harden "persistent if he wants something done."

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"James is persistent if he wants something done." 😂 Russell Westbrook discusses the role James Harden had in bringing him to Houston. https://t.co/BmkvV7oBA0

The eight-time All-Star added: "It was a collaborative effort. I thought it was the best decision for my career and the chance to reunite with a brother and a friend. It was exciting to me."

Morey was asked about what Westbrook brings to the table and noted that Westbrook is willing to do whatever it takes to win:

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“He plays with an energy, a passion, a will to win that I think is unparalleled in the league.” — @dmorey on Russell Westbrook https://t.co/PzLsYxgduf

Westbrook joins a Rockets team that reached Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago and was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors last season.

The Western Conference is suddenly wide open with Durant leaving the Warriors to join the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson set to potentially miss much of the season for Golden State with a torn ACL.

While the Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are perhaps the favorites with the duos of George and Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James and Anthony Davis, respectively, a Rockets team led by Harden, Westbrook and center Clint Capela is firmly in the mix.

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