Russell Westbrook and James Harden ‘Wanted to Play Together’
Houston’s braintrust is looking forward to a “very interesting and fun” season.
The Thunder reportedly also received a pair of protected first-round draft picks (2024 and 2026) and pick swaps (2021 and 2025) for the former MVP.
Westbrook, 30, was drafted fourth overall by the then Seattle SuperSonics in 2008, and departs as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer (18,859), second in assists (6,897), third in rebounds (5,760) and steals (1,442), and fourth in games played (821).
Thunder general manager Sam Presti worked with Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, to help honor the star guard’s hopes of playing with the Rockets, league sources said. The Thunder also discussed a possible deal with the Miami Heat, sources said.
Presti already is working with Paul’s agents at CAA Sports — Leon Rose and Steven Heumann — to redirect the nine-time All-Star to a new team, league sources tell ESPN. The Heat are prominent in the conversations, but there are other possibilities also being explored, sources said. Presti and Rose worked together last year on a similar situation with Carmelo Anthony.
In making the trade, the Rockets believe that the age difference between Paul (34) and Westbrook (30) gives them a better chance to extend the championship window of Harden, who will turn 30 next month.
Westbrook will be forever connected to the Thunder as the face of the franchise, pledging his loyalty to the organization in the wake of Durant’s departure to the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Westbrook re-upped with OKC, stabilizing the roster and providing a path forward, and then signed a five-year extension in 2017, at the time the largest contract in NBA history.