The Houston Rockets’ season came to an abrupt end in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers. It wasn’t a surprise that they lost to the Lakers, but it was the way they lost. After winning Game 1 by 15 points, the Rockets went on to lose the next four games in a row by an average of almost 13 points. Russell Westbrook drew the ire of many Rockets fans after an unimpressive series, shooting just 7-of-27 from three-point range, scoring only 10 points in Games 2 and 5, and ultimately being outplayed by Rajon Rondo.
Many fans want Westbrook to be traded somewhere else for anything else, but on the Locked On Rockets Podcast, host Jackson Gatlin doesn’t think the Rockets need to blow it up or trade Westbrook at all.
Jackson Gatlin: This group of players, the duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook moving forward for at least a couple more years because I do not buy into the idea that this team needs to be blown up and needs to be reconstructed immediately. Can a James Harden and Russell Westbrook duo work? I think that they can. And I don’t want to see this team blow it up. That’s not that that’s not just coming from a place of blind Rockets homeristic optimism, right?
Russell Westbrook was playing some of the best basketball of his career over a two and a half month stretch before the season was suspended. And there were a lot of variables that were thrown into the season: COVID, the bubble, all this stuff that was not accounted for. I still think that had the Rockets flow and rhythm not been disrupted by the COVID hiatus and all that, Russell Westbrook would have carried that incredible play all the way into and through the postseason. He wouldn’t have dealt with the after effects of having COVID-19, he wouldn’t have dealt with the quad injury more than likely. So all of that happened.
And that doesn’t make an excuse, right? I’m not making excuses for Russ. I’m just as frustrated as there as the next guy with some of his really low games. I talked about about Russ’s ceiling being really high, but his floor being just really disgustingly low at times. But he was so consistently good for two and a half months. I don’t think that was a fluke. That was him really finding his way to succeed in this Rockets system. And I think that can be replicated with a new coach in a system that prides itself on more action off ball and an offensive scheme that isn’t just give the ball to Russ & Harden and get out of the way. And so I’d like to see this duo continue to be together. I don’t think it’s worth it to blow anything up. I don’t think you know, anybody who’s saying trade Russ, trade Harden. I don’t think that’s the answer.