Westbrook’s situation though does not appear to have impacted James Harden’s desire to be in Houston.
According to Charania, Houston’s franchise cornerstone remains committed to the team and is “locked in” for the season.
Word of the stars’ divergent views on a long-term Houston future comes in the wake of ESPN reporting on concerns the pair had expressed about the direction of the franchise, stemming from the recent departures of former head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey.
Harden has been an All-Star in each of his eight seasons since joining Houston, winning MVP honours in 2018 and claiming the NBA’s scoring title the last three years. The 31-year-old has three years remaining on a maximum contract that owes him $131.5 million still — including a $46.9 million player option in 2022-23.
Last off-season, the Rockets acquired Westbrook to pair with Harden — sending Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as their 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, and the rights for the Thunder to swap top-10-protected picks with them in 2021 and 2025.
The experiment, at best, had mixed results. Westbrook, who turns 32 on Thursday, averaged predictably flashy stats to the tune of 27.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds and seven assists.
But Houston failed to advance beyond the second round, bowing out in five games to the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers, as Westbrook fought to shake off rust and injury after returning from a strained right quadriceps.
Part of Westbrook’s desire to move on from Houston, according to Charania, is rooted in his desire to return to his prior, floor-general role that he held with the Thunder.
Westbrook, who was named league MVP in 2017, is owed $131.5 million over the next three seasons and holds a $46.7 million player option in 2022-23, drastically limiting the field of available suitors for the polarizing all-star as the COVID-19 pandemic has left teams league-wide facing fiscal uncertainty.