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In the moments following Houston’s Game 4 loss, Russell Westbrook called out his team for their surprising lack of urgency in the first half of what was a must-win game.
“I don’t have an explanation for you. There should have been a sense of urgency on everybody’s part… We know what we have to do… We all have to sacrifice some of the things we love to do. We’ve got to scramble.”
Russell Westbrook on Rockets’ flat Game 4 loss to Lakers: “I don’t have an explanation for you. There should have been a sense of urgency on everybody’s part… We know what we have to do… We all have to sacrifice some of the things we love to do. We’ve got to scramble.” pic.twitter.com/RRhtHbC8Mz
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 11, 2020
The Rockets made a run in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lakers by six to make things relatively close down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to save the game and even the series.
Now on the brink of elimination in what many are calling another subpar season, many can’t shake the feeling that major changes are on the horizon for the Rockets.
Mike D’Antoni’s contract expires at season’s end, most of their top players are on the wrong side of 30, and Tilman Fertitta has already expressed his displeasure with the continual shortcomings of his team.
The question now for Houston is not about if they should make moves, but how they make them.
With a huge stockpile of their assets committed to OKC (as a result of the Westbrook deal), there’s really only so much they can do that doesn’t involve trading at least one of their dynamic duo of backcourt stars. Unfortunately, even that option has major limitations.
In a recent article by John Hollinger of The Athletic, he breaks down the possibility of a Westbrook trade, describing it as a rather challenging endeavor for Houston.
“Westbrook turns 32 in November and makes a staggering $47 million in 2022-23. The Rockets aren’t going to be able to trade him unless they take back somebody else’s dead weight, and we aren’t talking a few small sacks of potatoes here either.”
Along with his age and the details of his contract, Russ’ playstyle is a huge red flag for any potential trade partners. It is often that he loses control on the offensive end, committing turnovers and missing shots in the closing minutes of a game.
Westbrook’s long-distance shooting also continues to be a major area of concern, and opponents have been basically begging him to shoot from beyond the arc throughout these playoffs.
The bottom line is this: there may not be much the Rockets can do to change their current situation. They’re not trading Harden, and they could be stuck with Westbrook for the foreseeable future.
No doubt, they will try things — a new coach, new bench players, and maybe even a new system. But how far can they really go with Russ and Harden as their main guys? What is their ceiling? Whether they want to or not, the Rockets will be stuck asking that question for at least the next year.
The sad thing is, we may already know the answer.