Houston sports keeps getting weirder. Whether it's Jeff Luhnow suing the Astros or George Springer opting for free agency or Jack Easterby running amok with the Texans, it always seems to be something. Did we mention the rumors J.J. Watt won't be back next season?
That brings us to the Rockets. What had been a relatively stable situation over on La Branch has turned into team chaos since the bubble season ended in Orlando. Coach Mike D'Antoni declined to return and GM Daryl Morey resigned only to wind up running things in Philly. But that is only the beginning with more drama than Days of Our Lives.
The Rockets are capped out.
The league announced its new salary cap and it is being held at last year's to help offset losses in the pandemic-shortened season. That means the Rockets will have even less room to maneuver than they would have if the cap number had increased. Even then, they had very little to work with. Owner Tilman Fertitta has said he would be willing to eclipse the luxury tax threshold, but it will take some very creative capology from newly installed general manager Rafael Stone.
A shortened offseason makes for a tough adjustment for Coach Stephen Silas.
A new GM and a new coach is always a difficult adjustment for any offseason, but when you consider this one will be shorter than most, the pressure is dialed up even higher. Free agency is set to start in a week and the Rockets probably won't even have a fully assembled roster before December. Silas has been with the team barely a week in his very first head coaching job. He doesn't just need to hit the ground running. He needs to be in a full sprint.
Austin Rivers could get more money, playing time elsewhere.
The valuable backup point guard opted out of the final year of his deal, but could be back with the Rockets if the sides can make it work. The salary cap numbers mean Rivers could find a tough market for his services, but all it takes is one team to make the right fit. While Rivers isn't a superstar, he is a valuable backup, particularly defensively, and one of the few Rockets who really can get his own shot with or without James Harden.
No one seems happy with their role on the team.
P.J. Tucker is grumbling about wanting a raise. Eric Gordon is concerned with his role going forward. Harden has, allegedly, questioned the direction of the team's future. We'll get to Westbrook in a moment. The bottom line is: no one seems happy. This will happen when your team perpetually falls short, but it also speaks to a locker room that may be starting to crack. As great as he is, Harden is the one common denominator in all the issues the team has had making multiple stars work on the floor. This is not to say he is the problem, but when everyone is happy and you are the team's best player, it's your responsibility to fix things.
Russell Westbrook wants out?
That was quick. After just one year with the team and his best friend growing up, Westbrook apparently has seen enough. A report from The Athletic alleges that the dynamic point guard wants to be traded to a team where he can be more of a focal point of the offense as he was in Oklahoma City. This all comes on the heels of reports that both he and Harden were happy with Silas as the new coach as well as the continuance of John Lucas as an assistant. On one hand, this could deal a serious blow to the Rockets' chances right now. On the other, they could wind up with legitimate talent in return. Whatever the case, it is going to be a very fast and very awkward offseason for the Rockets.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.