As the Houston Rockets near implosion, pretty much everyone on the roster not named James Harden is at risk of being traded — perhaps none more than Russell Westbrook.
A 9x All-Star, Russ was acquired by the Rockets in the summer of 2019, with hopes that he and James Harden would spark something special. Unfortunately, all it brought was more of the same, and it seems the breaking point has been reached.
Westbrook’s availability has opened up a sea of potential suitors, including the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Bucks. In a piece by The Athletic, however, it’s the Chicago Bulls who are connected to the 2017 MVP.
In the article, Darnell Mayberry explains why the 6x Champions might be the perfect landing spot.
The Bulls don’t offer as much for a current identity. Tension and turmoil has defined the franchise for far too long. In time, new executive vice-president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and his front-office team could change that through patient, prudent transactions. Westbrook, though, would be the fastest route to relevance and respect.
Westbrook doesn’t just build culture. He is the culture. For all his flaws, one thing he will immediately do is create belief in the Bulls that they can win. He’s that teammate you walk into the gym next to, with your chest puffed out, knowing nobody can touch your team that day. He’s the reason you believe you have a chance against anyone, on any night. Those are rare breeds, and Westbrook remains in that class in spite of his loud and often famous failures.
It might be worth the game for Westbrook just based on his impact alone…
By any measure, Westbrook is a superstar. He remains a league-wide draw, one of the few players who is truly worth the price of admission. You never know what you might see from him. For better and for worse. It’s a feeling Bulls fans haven’t experienced since Rose spent his days dazzling the United Center. Westbrook gives you a reason to care, a reason to watch. He’ll rejuvenate the fan base and return butts to seats (when allowed by state regulations).
The Bulls haven’t found much success since the retirement of Michael Jordan in 1998. Besides Derrick Rose, they have yet to find a franchise-leading star. As one of the best guards in the game, Westbrook could become their guy.
Of course, there are also some major concerns when it comes to his game, especially as he increases in age.
Westbrook might be incapable of aging gracefully. It’s long been a question. His athleticism just accounts for so much of his effectiveness. There is a legitimate concern that his dominance will deteriorate as he moves through his 30s. The snarling, soaring, rim-rattling Westbrook who’s made fans jump out of their seats for a dozen years is losing a step. He might not think so, but it’s happening and there’s nothing he can do about it.
Russ is also heavily criticized for his subpar three-point shooting ability and careless turnovers that seem to happen way too frequently. It should also be noted that the star guard has only ever been past the Conference Finals once, where he lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Westbrook can’t be the center of attention on a team thinking of going anywhere. As dominant as his career has been, he was never suited for that role. Oklahoma City gave him carte blanche after Kevin Durant’s defection and it got them nowhere. Houston retooled its roster and revamped its offensive system for him. Now Westbrook wants out. If the past four seasons have revealed anything about Westbrook beyond his incredible ability to post triple-doubles it’s that teams ought to be careful of handing him the keys. After all these years, he still drives too fast and can’t help but swerve off the occasional cliff.
Those things don’t make for an anxiety-deterring recipe, but is it worse than what they’ve got?
With Westbrook, it’s hard to say what the Bulls would be capable of, especially if they have to trade several of their key players to get a deal done. Still, at the very least, his presence would signal a new era in Chicago, one that hopefully leads to better results than what they’ve seen in the past few decades.
At this point, that’s all really anyone in that franchise can ask for.