I felt sick initially when seeing news of the trade that brought Russell Westbrook to Houston. I had never despised a player so much in my 24 years of watching professional basketball. He represented flash over substance and the Rockets traded away the player I consider the smartest in modern basketball history to get him. But I’ve since calmed down and warmed up to the trade. I’m certainly excited because Westbrook is no doubt entertaining to watch. But in the now five days which have elapsed since the deal, in reading and hearing all of the different opinions, I think I’ve come around. I understand why the Rockets felt they had to make the trade and I see how it improves the franchise’s hopes of winning a title. Yesterday, I wrote about why I hated the deal. I promised I’d give the positives today.
Chris Paul deserved better. I just can’t manage to shake the feeling that we did him wrong. I know that there are those who will say that he has $160 million to help him get over it. But money isn’t everything. (Not to mention the fact that that contract was a promise repaid for Paul opting into the last year of his deal with the Clippers.) Paul chose Houston–this wasteland spurned annually, most recently by Jimmy Butler–leaving behind the bright lights of Los Angeles in search of a title. He thought our team could get him there.
While nothing has yet come out, at the moment of writing, I’ll be comforted only if further news breaks that Paul himself wanted out of Houston. Hopefully he can land somewhere to end out his career with the dignity a point guard of his stature deserves. I don’t want to see Chris Paul playing out the final days of whatever physical ability he has left wasting away in a rebuilding project like Oklahoma City.
Paul was my most favorite player in the league even before he joined the Rockets. But when the rumors first broke that he could be had, I didn’t want him. I just didn’t see how he and Harden could co-exist both being ball dominant future Hall of Fame point guards. In the end, I guess I was sort of right. They couldn’t. It’s just that what everybody expected to happen in Year 1 happened in Year 2. Year 1 ended up being the most magical Rockets season outside of the title years of 1994. The 65 win Rockets were actually one of the best teams of the decade. They would have won the title in most non-Warriors seasons.