On July 18th, amid reports that the relationship between James Harden and Chris Paul had become “unsalvageable,” Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey responded by saying that not only are Harden and Paul fine, but that Paul was not available in any prospective trade.
Just a few weeks later, after the Clippers pulled off a stunning trade with the Thunder to acquire Paul George, and thus land Kawhi Leonard in free agency, Oklahoma City embraced a full-on rebuild by sending Russell Westbrook to Houston in exchange for Paul and a package of draft picks.
So how did the Rockets go from standing pat with a starting lineup Morey called the best in the West to acquiring Westbrook in a risky all-in gamble? Morey explained how the trade came to be in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show this week.
Daryl Morey: “The Paul George situation obviously opened the window, and I did not anticipate him being available until that happened.
…. First, [I] asked for the direction of the [Thunder], and after that we discussed ‘maybe they’re looking at the possibility of moving some of their other key players. Spoke with ownership, with coach D’Antoni, with James Harden, and acquiring Westbrook at that point was something that we were interested in. And then it’s a matter of just working out the details of how to do it.”
Dan Patrick: “What was Harden’s reaction when you first broached the topic.”
Daryl Morey: “Very enthusiastic, because he knows he plays well together with [Westbrook], because they’ve done it. Both on OKC and USA basketball, and growing up. So he was enthusiastic.”
During the six-day process of refining the deal with the Thunder, Morey revealed that Harden was growing impatient after first learning of the possibility.
Via the Houston Chronicle:
“At one point, James asked me, ‘Why is it taking so long?’” Morey said. “I told him, ‘Dude, your trade took me five months.’”