Why Russell Westbrook is so desperate to get away from Rockets

The Rockets went all-in with Russell Westbrook and now he wants out.

Westbrook appeared to acclimate well to the Rockets as his season in Houston went on, averaging over 30 points per game the final two months of a regular season that was shortened by coronavirus. The Rockets traded away center Clint Capela at the deadline and that helped unclog the lane for Westbrook to attack the rim.

His star partnership with James Harden seemed to be working and the team reached the Western Conference semifinals, where Houston was bounced by the eventual champion Lakers in five games. Now, The Athletic is reporting that Westbrook wants a trade with the Knicks among the interested suitors.

But, why? The Athletic says:

Westbrook, sources say, has made it known for quite some time now that he would like to see significant changes to the Rockets’ culture. Specifically, his desire for more team-wide accountability, discipline and structure have been the focus of talks with team officials. Throughout the season, Westbrook was the consistent presence who kept Harden accountable and the two close friends had several verbal exchanges that sources described as “tense, but needed.”

The Post has reported that the Rockets are resistant to trading Westbrook, 32, the 2017 MVP. It’s unclear what they could back given the three years and $132 million left on his contract.

And The Athletic added that Harden, despite reports of discontent, is “locked in” for the upcoming season that begins next month.

The reports, though, continued an offseason of upheaval in Houston. Coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey both split with the team. The Athletic further reported that forward P.J. Tucker, a key defender and 3-point shooter, is “irate” with his contract. And that sixth man Eric Gordon was also frustrated with his role alongside Harden and Westbrook.

It’s all eyes on the new Rockets braintrust of GM Rafael Stone and coach Stephen Silas to see what happens next.

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