SportsPulse: Houston couldn’t stay idle and watch everyone else improve. USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the blockbuster trade that sends Russell Westbrook to the Rockets where he will reunite with former teammate James Harden.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are teammates again — this time with the Houston Rockets.
And now the Rockets have the 2017 MVP (Westbrook) and 2018 MVP (Harden).
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti continues to reshape the team’s future, sending Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul and two first-round draft picks, a person familiar with the deal told USA TODAY Sports.
The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly until the deal is announced by the teams.
Oklahoma City in the past week has moved fast when it comes to trading All-Stars. First, it was Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, and now it’s Westbrook to the Rockets, where he will join former Thunder teammate Harden.
After the Thunder traded George for five first-round round picks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, it became apparent Westbrook’s time in Oklahoma City was coming to an end.
The 11-year veteran and eight-time All-Star did not want to be part of a rebuild.
This deal re-energizes the Rockets, who lost to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs the past two seasons, including the 2018 Western Conference finals.
In the offseason, the Rockets watched other teams in the West, especially the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, improve. And before the Westbrook trade, the Rockets hadn’t made any moves that moved the needle.
This one definitely moves the needle. Now the Rockets need to find a way to make it work with Harden and Westbrook in the backcourt. Both players are different than they were when the last played together with the Thunder in 2012.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, known as an offensive genius, has work in front of him to incorporate two guards who like to have the ball and attempt at least 20 shots per game.
The Thunder talked with Westbrook after the George trade, and he was amenable to a trade to a playoff team. The Miami Heat, who just acquired Jimmy Butler in free agency, had interest in trading for Westbrook, but was limited by salary cap constraints.
Oklahoma City has piled up draft picks and now 10 first-round picks through the 2026 draft. It’s going to be a long rebuild, and the Thunder need to hit on some of those picks. But if the Thunder score on some of them — like they did with Wesbrook, Harden and Kevin Durant — the Thunder are in position to have one of the brightest long-term futures in the NBA.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.