This was not on anybody’s radar on July 4. The Houston Rockets thought they would go into next season with a roster that looked a lot like the one that lost to the Warriors in the second round last season.
That’s what Rockets GM Daryl Morey thought, but everything changed on July 5, when news leaked that Kawhi Leonard had chosen to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and Paul George was going with him in a trade with Oklahoma City.
That’s what sparked the conversation in Houston about Westbrook, Morey recounted in detail to the fantastic Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
“The discussion at that point among the basketball staff was, ‘Hey, we need to check in and see if this changes the direction [of the Thunder].’ I guess there was a thought they might trade other guys like Russell. You never know. At this point, it was pretty unknown.”
After talking it over with Rockets staff and ownership, Morey reached out and started a conversation with Thunder GM Sam Presti. The conversation was general at first and got more specific over time, but Morey didn’t think it would come together as they looked for a third team to make the deal more palatable to everyone.
“It didn’t seem that there would be a fit for both parties,” Morey said. “I told them ([Rockets owners] Tilman and Patrick Fertitta) quite a bit that it wasn’t going to happen because that’s what I believed. I didn’t think the pieces lined up. That’s why a three-team deal made sense. And I thought other teams would be more involved than we were; teams that had more fits.”
Eventually, the Thunder settled more on the idea of a two-team trade with a wheelbarrow full of draft picks. Morey was down for that as long as he could make some moves with current picks because once again the Rockets are going all in.
Morey said the hardest part was calling Chris Paul to tell him he was being traded. Morey had warned CP3 this could be coming, but it didn’t make the moment easier.
“I hated that call,” Morey said. “I’m sure he hated it more. He’s been such a great player for us. We were moments away from winning a title with him.”
Take the time to read the entire story in the Chronicle from Feigen. It’s the Rockets perspective of how this came together, but almost did not.