While I agree mostly with James LaCombe’s column (”Better late than never, Rockets make their move,” The Daily News, July 21), I am probably more concerned about James Harden and Russell Westbrook playing together than he is.
James quickly points out that the trade might or might not work. The Chris Paul traded didn’t work because that trade was supposed to help the Rockets get past the Golden State Warriors.
I agree the Rockets were smart to trade a Westbrook, who is in the prime of his career, for Paul, who is in the twilight of his career. LaCombe was also right about the Rockets not doing much recently in the draft, and Houston wants to win now.
I went to school at the University of Oklahoma, so I have many friends who love Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook is amazing when it comes to all of his triple-doubles despite the supporting cast around him.
Here is where I disagree with LaCombe, and my main concern for the Houston Rockets’ future. Harden and Westbrook are friends and former teammates. However, much has changed since Harden left the Thunder in 2012.
Both players want the ball all the time. Both players want to control the floor with the ball. Both players have transformed their game since they last played on the same team. Will Harden and Westbrook be grown up enough to share the ball?
At Westbrook’s introduction press conference, he said he and Harden can get along together, and both players can play off the ball. However, it doesn’t take a PR degree to understand that question was expected, and Houston’s PR team told Westbrook to give that answer or a similar answer.
What about game-winning shot situations? Who will take the final shot? Harden or Westbrook? Last season, Westbrook tended to play hero-ball and thought he could win the game by himself — much to the displeasure of my roommate and other OKC fans. It usually didn’t work out.
This relationship can work, but like any healthy relationship, it must have compromise. Can Harden and Westbrook compromise on sharing the ball while not changing their style of play? I’m not convinced.
It is much easier to say off the court you can play together. It won’t be until Harden and Westbrook are on the court during game time to see if those words still hold true.
I think this relationship will falter and break apart because I don’t believe both players can break their habits and win an NBA Championship together.
If Harden and Westbrook work on their relationship and do find a way to work together, in the words of my sports editor, “Watch out, NBA.”
Just don’t count on it.