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James Harden has been a Houston Rocket since 2012, and the team has made countless moves to help him win a title. None have panned out. Now, the Rockets look stuck with no clear path to contention. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, both Harden and his co-star, Russell Westbrook, are “concerned” about the immediate future of the Rockets.
This seems like a bat signal, from James Harden in particular, that shows the team sees no avenue forward. Does it mean the duo will demand trades? No, but these type of smoke signals usually mean fire.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook’s uncertainty about the Rockets’ direction has left the front office “fearful” of losing its stars, per @wojespn and @espn_macmahon— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 11, 2020
They haven’t asked for a trade but it’s a “plausible eventual possibility” pic.twitter.com/VJ7rq9wSur
What’s the problem?
Harden has already spent eight years in Houston and seen roster adjustments made left and right to reach one goal: an NBA title. The roster today includes James Harden, Russell Westbrook, PJ Tucker, and bunch of spare parts. Their biggest asset, outside of Harden, is Russell Westbrook, who’s owed just north of $41.3 million/year until 2023.
No one wants that Westbrook contract dumpster fire. Aside from the New York Knicks and their desperate ways, no one else is going to offer Houston short-term value in a deal for Westbrook. If anything, the Rockets have to take steps back to free themselves of this deal. That’s where James Harden comes in. Newly-hired GM Rafael Stone wants to win now, but he can’t seem build a championship cast around his biggest star.
Look at the team that just won the 2020 NBA championship. Prior to the start of the season, the Lakers had young players like Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, and draft capital to land a superstar for LeBron James, and they brought in Anthony Davis. James Harden won’t be playing alongside anyone near Davis’ skillset.
Stephen Silas was just hired to coach the Rockets, but he has done a poor job of exuding confidence in his team. Harden isn’t convinced. He still sees a failing roster. Still, here’s Silas pretending the confidence is mutual on ESPN’s First Take.
Stephen Silas said this last week about James Harden and Russell Westbrook pic.twitter.com/ZQORPUrNRq— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) November 11, 2020
“He is our guy,” Silas says.
He has a lot of difficulty sharing with the basketball world how Harden or Westbrook feel. He simply states how he feels and isn’t able to say that his two stars are excited in any way.
That should at least cause fans some concern.
This is part of the reason that reports of Rockets officials being “fearful” make perfect sense. If Rafael Stone can’t find a way to improve this team for the short term, Harden can say the Rockets aren’t making moves to win now. They better hope some team offers something for Westbrook before Harden skips town for good.
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Bat signal. Batman to the rescue