For the second consecutive offseason, the Houston Rockets pulled off a trade to give James Harden a new backcourt running mate. Last year, the team swapped out Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, and after rumors swirled for a few weeks about the latter wanting out, Westbrook was moved on Wednesday night for John Wall.
Whenever one half of a big-name pairing is moved, questions inevitably pop up about the role that the other had in the entire ordeal. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN brought some insight into this on Thursday morning’s edition of Get Up, and after mentioning that both teams were trying to appease the stars they still in place — Harden and Bradley Beal — he revealed that Harden was especially fond of this move.
“He had a preference of John Wall over Westbrook,” Wojnarowski said of Harden when asked about what the future holds for the former league MVP, who reportedly would like a trade. “Although in the last couple years, Harden has moved teammates in and out. Brought Chris Paul in, moved him out, same with Russell Westbrook now. Whether that’s going to be enough to convince him to want to be there long-term, [the] Rockets aren’t sure about that.”
It’s a very interesting nugget because Harden and Westbrook have a long friendship, something that was mentioned a whole lot when the former Thunder teammates joined forces in Houston last year. This is not to assume there was a big falling out or anything between the two, but perhaps this was an example of something that worked well in theory and not as well once that became reality — the mind cannot help but wander to a piece done by The Athletic which indicated that Harden “wasn’t as receptive to criticism as other teammates” that came after Westbrook led a meeting in which he “went around the room indicating what was wrong and what each player needed to do to fix the losing streak, starting with himself.”
Of course, there are legitimate risks that come with trading for Wall, who has not appeared in an NBA game since December of 2018 due to injuries. But Houston’s No. 1 priority is making sure Harden is happy, and if this helps them achieve that goal, then it makes sense why this deal happened.