James Harden is touring the world for Adidas (before he joins up with Team USA to go after the World Cup in China — and sell some shoes there, too). He’s got a ton of events and speaking engagements set up.
One of those was in Paris, where he was asked about the trade bringing Russell Westbrook to Houston, reuniting the former Oklahoma City teammates. Harden is pumped, but he added that Westbrook was not happy and wanted out. Trash Talk had the original video:
The money line:
“Russ wasn’t happy and now we’re back. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year, I guarantee you that.”
Does that mean Westbrook was not happy in Oklahoma City? Or, as I would tend to interpret it, Westbrook wasn’t happy after another first-round playoff exit followed by Paul George leaving?
Whatever the reason, Westbrook and Harden form a dynamic duo Houston, although one with a lot of fit questions. Westbrook struggles with his shot off the ball, but if you put the ball in Westbrook’s hands (Harden is the more dangerous of the two as a shooter), it means taking it out of the hands of the most efficient isolation scorer in the game. There is work to do to fit all the pieces together, and plenty of people around the NBA are not convinced the Rockets really got much better. This is seen in some quarters as an exchange of problems, a lateral move.
Then again, the Rockets were the second-best team in the West by the playoffs the past two seasons, the Warriors juggernaut has splintered, and that means even the Rockets’ status quo is in the mix in the deep West.
And if Harden and Westbrook remain happy to play together, that makes them an even bigger threat.