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Volume 26 No. 50
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Rockets, Thunder Stun NBA With Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul Swap

Westbrook's trade to the Rockets reunites him with former Thunder teammate James Harden
Photo: NBAE/getty images

The Rockets pulled off one of the "biggest" moves of the NBA offseason in trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, according to Jerome Solomon of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Kawhi Leonard "helped shift the balance of power to the West Coast" by signing with the Clippers, but the Rockets "stepped on the scale and moved it toward the center" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/12). In Oklahoma City, Erik Horne notes following Paul George's trade request that ultimately landed him with Leonard on the Clippers, Westbrook "reportedly worked in partnership with his agent" -- Wasserman's Thad Foucher -- and the Thunder to "get him to the city he wanted to go to." Westbrook will now pair up with former Thunder teammate James Harden, where he wants to be as the team moves in "another direction" (OKLAHOMAN, 7/12). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen writes with the Lakers and Clippers "dramatically upgraded into championship contenders and the Nuggets and Jazz making significant additions, pressure had increased" on the Rockets "just to keep pace" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/12).

THROWING A HAIL MARY: In Houston, Brian Smith writes this trade is a "huge gamble for the Rockets." But the Rockets also "knew they had to do something this summer." Maybe they "really regret this in a year." Smith: "But in the Western Conference and in the NBA in 2019, if you're not first, you're last" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/12). USA TODAY's Dan Wolken wonders, "What other choice did the Rockets have?" This trade "fits both the ethos" of Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Owner Tilman Fertitta. Morey has "relentlessly chased superstars with little regard for their personality fit," while Fertitta promised "major changes for the Rockets after last season's second-round playoff meltdown" (USA TODAY, 7/12).'s Tom Haberstroh wrote for the Rockets, this trade is a "bold move, but it's tough to ignore the scent of desperation." This "appears to be a situation" where Fertitta "may have gotten impatient after a Western Conference semifinals loss" to the Warriors (, 7/11).

CURRENT PAIN FOR FUTURE GAIN: The OKLAHOMAN's Horne writes in the "span of less than a week, kickstarted by the trade request" of George, the Thunder have traded two "franchise centerpieces to ignite a full-on restructure" (OKLAHOMAN, 7/12). In DC, Des Bieler notes the Thunder in the deal also "received a massive allotment of draft capital" and the team now appears "well-positioned to wheel and deal its way through an extensive rebuilding project" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/12). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel in a front-page piece writes the trade does "two things for the Thunder: keeps OKC somewhat competitive this coming season, while also fortifying the future." Thunder Exec VP & GM Sam Presti and company did it all "without bottoming out" (OKLAHOMAN, 7/12).'s Royce Young wrote for the "first time in their 11-year history since relocating from Seattle, the Thunder are tumbling headfirst into a reboot." It "leaves big questions about how OKC might react to watching a team without superstars, or if it can continue to fill the arena on Tuesday nights in February" (, 7/11).