By Jenny Reiser
The Washington Wizards helped the Houston Rockets’ franchise overhaul by trading for Russell Westbrook in exchange for John Wall in a swap of pissed-off point guards.
The Rockets will also receive a first-round draft pick in 2023 in the deal. There has been growing apprehension in Houston about the All-Star guard James Harden and his willingness to stay with the Rockets. But Houston remains intent on starting the season with Harden on the roster and trying to re-establish a relationship with him before considering a trade, according to a person familiar with the Rockets’ thinking who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Westbrook joins the Rockets’ former coach Mike D’Antoni and their former general manager Daryl Morey on the list of high-profile departures since the Houston’s meek second-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Wall has not played in almost two years because of left Achilles’ tendon woes, but the Wizards’ willingness to surrender a first-round pick made the deal more palatable for Houston after it previously explored a Westbrook deal with the Knicks and the Charlotte Hornets.
“The decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “What he has meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”
The trade reunites Westbrook, nine times an All-Star, and his former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks in Washington. Brooks, now the Wizards’ coach, has been a strong advocate for a Westbrook deal despite the limited trade market Houston had found for Westbrook, the N.B.A.’s 2016-17 Most Valuable Player Award winner.