Report: Russell Westbrook Changed Pay Schedule to Facilitate Rockets Trade

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2019

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 26: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets pose for a photo during the Houston Rockets Introductory Press Conference on July 26, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook has agreed to a revised payment schedule that will allow the team to avoid massive payments upfront while the total amount owed remains the same, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Westbrook is owed $124.1 million over the next three seasons, including $38.5 million next season, and holds a $47.1 million player option for 2022-23.

After spending the first 11 years of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 2016-17 NBA MVP was traded to Houston last month as OKC began a full-scale rebuild.

Acquiring Westbrook added salary for a Houston club that already found itself on the hook for some sizable contracts. 2017-18 NBA MVP James Harden will make $38.2 million next season, with Clint Capela ($14.9 million) and Eric Gordon ($14.1 million) combining to add nearly $30 million to the payroll.

The Rockets will pay those four players alone a total of $105.7 million in 2019-20.

Tilman Fertitta—who bought the franchise for $2.2 billion in September 2017—has a net worth of $5.3 billion, per Forbes. And the 62-year-old has made it clear that he is willing to spend if it means winning a championship, telling ESPN's Tim MacMahon in June that he is willing to surpass the luxury-tax threshold:

"Did I say I don't want to be in the f--king tax one out of three years, I don't want to get in the repeater tax? Absolutely. OK, but I would have spent whatever this past year if [Morey] would have said, 'I can get this player, and this guy's going to help us win a championship.'"

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told MacMahon that Fertitta has "fully authorized me to do whatever we can to make the team better."

Morey and Co. believe Westbrook could be the missing piece, and they are willing to pay him the remainder of the five-year, $206.8 million extension he signed with OKC in September 2017. But by restructuring the payment schedule, Houston can operate under more team-friendly terms.