“I know how to play with Russ and he knows how to play with me,” Harden told Morey prior to the blockbuster trade that landed Westbrook, and sent Chris Paul to the OKC Thunder.
The two former MVPs are each chasing their first NBA title, and will re-join forces after spending three years together as young pups in OKC.
As discussions between the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder on a blockbuster deal for Russell Westbrook grew serious Thursday, Daryl Morey, Houston’s general manager, called James Harden to discuss how both stars might work together. Harden gently cut Morey off and reminded him: “I know how to play with Russ and he knows how to play with me,” Morey recounted to ESPN.com late Thursday in Las Vegas.
That was Harden’s message to Morey over the phone on Thursday. That was Westbrook’s message in choosing the Rockets as one of his destinations — along with the Miami Heat, who may now pursue Paul as something of a consolation prize. (The Rockets hoped to turn the deal into a three-team trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.)
Westbrook was enthusiastic about playing with Harden again, per sources familiar with the talks. That kind of buy-in matters. Both superstars will have to change for this to work, even though Mike D’Antoni will probably stagger minutes as rigidly as he did with Harden and Paul. D’Antoni’s experience coaching Westbrook on Team USA boosted Houston’s comfort level making this deal, sources say. The Thunder belonged to Westbrook in almost every way. The Rockets do not. Maybe that alone will spur some change in him.