Russell Westbrook's trade request is just the tip of the iceberg for the Houston Rockets. The Texans had a couple of good seasons from 2017 through 2019 but just like their biggest rivals during that time, the Golden State Warriors, things were very different for them this past season.
However, unlike the Warriors, the Rockets don't have any hope for the next season. In the wake of Westbrook's trade request, several details about the Rockets saw the light and things aren't looking very favorable for them. Various players have expressed their discontent with the way the team has handled their contracts, their time of play and the role they have on the team.
Kelly Iko, Sam Amick, and Shams Charania of The Athletic detailed every problem the Rockets are facing right now. For starters, Westbrook and Harden had some exchanges during the season; in fact, the point guard tried to explain what was wrong with the team during a losing streak and the Beard wasn't so happy that Russ was criticizing the team.
Westbrook, sources say, has made it known for quite some time now that he would like to see significant changes to the Rockets’ culture. Specifically, his desire for more team-wide accountability, discipline and structure have been the focus of talks with team officials. Throughout the season, Westbrook was the consistent presence who kept Harden accountable and the two close friends had several verbal exchanges that sources described as “tense, but needed.”
During the January locker room meeting following a home loss to Portland, Westbrook, who was leading the meeting, went around the room indicating what was wrong and what each player needed to do to fix the losing streak, starting with himself, sources said. When it came to Harden, however, he wasn’t as receptive to criticism as other teammates, sources said.
Austin Rivers also suffered Harden's anger at some point, when the Beard blamed him for missing a free throw.
[Austin] Rivers was barked at by Harden after the former MVP missed a free throw and blamed Rivers — who was standing up by the bench — for distracting him.
Moreover, The Athletic explains that Eric Gordon was unhappy with how his role diminished since 2016-17. Danuel House wasn't cool with his offensive usage and even verbally challenged Harden and Westbrook at some point. As for P.J. Tucker, he has been "irate" over his contract situation with the team, which can prompt his departure from the Rockets.
They are a hot mess right now and seeing all these players are unhappy with the direction of the team in the last couple of years, a change of culture is what they need. To do so, however, some of these guys must leave the squad as soon as possible. Stephen Silas landed in a team with fresh expectations upon his arrival, but now that has changed. The Rockets need to figure things out if they still plan to compete this upcoming season.