Report: James Harden, Russell Westbrook 'Expressed Concern' on Rockets' Future

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2020

Houston Rockets' James Harden, left and Russell Westbrook walks together during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Houston Rockets guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook have reportedly "expressed concern about the direction of the franchise" following the departures of general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D'Antoni during the offseason.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon reported Wednesday the Rockets' leadership—governor Tilman Fertitta, GM Rafael Stone and coach Stephen Silas—is "fearful" the superstar duo's commitment to the organization may be "wavering," though no trade requests have been made.

Harden, who's expressed "urgency" to the Houston front office about building a championship contender, and Westbrook were both involved in the team's coaching search and were "on board" with the decision to hire Silas, who most recently served as a Dallas Mavericks assistant, according to the ESPN report.

The Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference with a 44-28 record during the 2019-20 season. They defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs but were then eliminated by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semifinals.

Houston will return all of its major contributors from last season. The group includes Harden, Westbrook, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington.

The team lacks a post player who can make a major impact offensively, though. D'Antoni was able to effectively use extreme small-ball lineups to navigate the regular season, but the Rockets' unique approach was no match for Anthony Davis, LeBron James and the Lakers.

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Stone told reporters during his introductory press conference last week that Fertitta made it clear money isn't a concern when it comes to building the roster:

"He reiterated to me upon being hired that his priorities were winning first, second, and ad nauseam. Money, not so much. I do think sometimes that on the personnel side, we have rules within the NBA. The salary cap and luxury tax, if you're in them…they actually limit your flexibility. I think sometimes people think that you don't want to be in it because of cash, when oftentimes, it's because it results in being hard-capped and limits your flexibility at the trade deadline, or something else."

It doesn't sound like Harden or Westbrook is trying to leave Houston in the immediate future, and the shortened offseason would make those type of blockbuster, franchise-altering moves difficult anyway.

That said, their growing concerns about the direction of the organization could make the 2020-21 campaign a make-or-break year for the Rockets as they're currently constructed.