It’s okay to say it. It’s okay to admit it. Say it with me now:
The Houston Rockets are the laughing stock of the NBA.
Russell Westbrook’s trade request was simply the tip of the iceberg, and an article from The Athletic has shared that this is simply a small circumstance from a long list of questionable actions that have turned the Rockets into a cesspool of dysfunction with a capital D.
The article listed several players, past and present, in examples of frustrating moves that have soured many members of the team.
Trevor Ariza left free agency for more money, but declined to return when the Rockets asked due to a lack of respect and an apology he felt he deserved for pouring out as much effort as he did from 2014-18.
Austin Rivers, who recently opted out of his contract for next season, had arguments with James Harden.
Some of those concerns paint the Rockets in a very dim light and frustrates the fanbase at the mistreatment of some of these players.
The article feels like a super long list of reasons why the Rockets suck, but some of these tiffs are reasonable and resolvable.
P.J. Tucker, who is in the final year of his contract, has been “irate” over his contract situation and wants an extension.
At 35, Tucker is in the twilight of his NBA career. He has the ability to play a few more years in the league, but it’s hard to give someone a contract extension past your 36th birthday if you aren’t a mega-superstar. That being said, Tucker has been a steady foundation and the source of much of the Rockets’ toughness over the past few years. His future past this season with the Rockets is uncertain, but he has said in the past that he wishes to retire as a Rocket.
Eric Gordon expressed distaste over his consistent back-and-forth from the first and second units.
Mike D’Antoni was the source of that issue, and with D’Antoni out of the picture, Stephen Silas can give him a defined role that Gordon can be satisfied with. Also, if EG was that unhappy, he would not have signed an extension with the team.
There’s also Danuel House Jr. and his mysterious appearance from the bubble. The team has been mute about the situation since it happened, and the decision made on House could dictate what the future holds for the Rockets.
All of these situations come back to Russell Westbrook, the first person to stand up and address the elephant in the room. There needs to be a culture shift. He spoke out and asked to be removed from the situation. However, with all that’s happened around him, and his rumored distaste for Harden’s lack of accepting criticism, who would want to be in that environment?
The good news that comes with all of this is that the Rockets can admit that they’ve reached a valley in this experiment and change. They have a first-time head coach and a first-time general manager who can kickstart this new culture and new wave of Rockets basketball.
But this newness doesn’t need the jettisoning of a “locked in” Harden, the second-best player in franchise history. Though it may require Harden to look in the mirror, realize the situation he’s in, and find out how he, as a player and leader, can shape these next two years, the final two of his peak prime, and turn it into the one thing he’s desired since coming to Houston — a ring.