Last night, Houston Rockets fans were left shell-shocked. The Athletic reported that there was a lot of locker-room trouble, and the biggest news was Russell Westbrook asking for a trade.
After just one season at Houston, Westbrook wants to leave to be the primary ball-handler elsewhere. He had a reduced role as compared to his OKC days, and he was unhappy. The Rockets had to trade away Chris Paul and a first-round pick for Westbrook, and this will bite them now. But it’s not just Westbrook who is discontent.
Everyone hanging up on Houston tonight huh?
— Josh Hart (@joshhart) November 12, 2020
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Rockets center P. J. Tucker unsatisfied with his contract
In July 2017, the Rockets signed P. J. Tucker on an $8 million deal, and he still has one more season left on his contract.
But PJ is unhappy that other players in the league, of the same caliber and play style as him, are earning more than him. The Athletic mentioned that he “felt insulted by Houston’s decision to delay extension discussions and wait until after the Feb. 6 trade deadline to guarantee his 2020-21 salary.”
Eric Gordon, Danuel House, Austin Rivers frustrated with their roles
Eric Gordon signed for the Rockets back in 2016. After winning the Sixth Man of the Year in 2017, he believes his role has diminished since then. This season, he played a career-low in minutes, but at the same time, he had career lows in FG% and 3PT% too. He wanted to play more minutes when James Harden and Russell Westbrook were on the floor, but Mike D’Antoni’s rigid system didn’t let him do that.
Playing instead of Gordon was Danuel House, who was also left unsatisfied with his role. Despite playing over 30 minutes per game, he averaged a mere 8.6 shots per game. This frustration boiled over often and he “verbally challenged D’Antoni, Harden, and Westbrook this season.”
Back-up guard Austin Rivers announced that he was rejecting his $2 million player option. He went from playing 28.6 minutes per game in the 2018-19 season to just 23.4 minutes in the 2019-20 season. He was left unhappy with his role, and was also upset over a couple of ridiculous incidents.
The Athletic mentioned that “Rivers was barked at by Harden after the former MVP missed a free throw and blamed Rivers — who was standing up by the bench — for distracting him.”
Former players also left displeased
The Athletic wrote, “Former teammates have described the culture in Houston as problematic, sources said, highlighting a situation that caters far too much to its stars.”
D’Antoni’s system heavily relied on Harden only and Westbrook when he joined. This left the others annoyed, both current and even former players. The main strategy was to just shoot threes and nothing else. Players believe that this strategy was the reason the Rockets failed in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals when they missed a record 27-straight threes.
The decision to trade away Chris Paul and Clint Capela also didn’t go down well with the team. It forced a total system change to small-ball, which blew up in their faces during the playoffs.
What’s next for the Rockets?
Westbrook has mentioned that he wants to be the primary ball-handler. The Rockets might send him to a team like the Knicks, where in return, they can get some future picks, and hopefully use that for further strengthening of the roster. Or they could trade him for other players on the market like Jrue Holiday or do the unthinkable and bring back Chris Paul.
Westbrook’s departure could see Harden returning to the point guard position. He was the league leader in assists the last time he played there. This could also open more opportunities for Gordon.
New coach Stephen Silas has already talked about some solid strategic plans for his team. If he can involve the whole team and keep them happy with their role, their performance could see an improvement as a result. It will be an interesting off-season for the Rockets, who neither have money for Free Agency nor draft picks for the 2020 Draft.
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