HOUSTON－Russell Westbrook is headed to the Washington Wizards and John Wall is moving to the Houston Rockets in a significant swap of point guards－one an MVP, the other a No 1 overall draft pick－just weeks before the season starts.
The Wizards shipped a future lottery-protected first-round pick to the Rockets on Wednesday night.
“Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell’s caliber and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a release.” With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he has meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”
While Wall has played his entire professional career in the nation’s capital, the move ends Westbrook’s tenure in Houston after just one disappointing season. He arrived from Oklahoma City in July 2019 for Chris Paul and draft picks.
The Rockets had hoped that the 32-year-old Westbrook would be the final piece they needed to win their first title since winning back-to-back championships in 1994-95. But instead, Houston was eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western semifinals. Westbrook was the 2017 NBA MVP and is a nine-time All-Star, but has failed to win a title.
Many questioned whether the pairing of two ball-dominant guards like Westbrook and James Harden would work in Houston, but the longtime friends insisted that it would. After the Rockets were sent home from the playoffs early again, rumors started to swirl that the two weren’t happy in Houston and both wanted out.
But after spending years building their entire team around Harden, who won MVP honors in 2018, the Rockets weren’t interested in parting with him. This move could be new general manager Rafael Stone’s way of appeasing Harden so the Rockets can continue their quest for a title this season instead of rebuilding without the superstar. Stone was promoted to GM last month after Daryl Morey stepped down before quickly taking a job with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Westbrook-Wall deal works under the NBA’s rules because the two players are owed about the same amount: Each gets more than $80 million over the next two seasons, plus each has a player option of more than $45 million for 2022-23. And both were looking to move on.
LeBron extends contract
LeBron James has agreed to a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers.
James’ agency, Klutch Sports, confirmed the deal Wednesday during the first week of training camp for the NBA champions. The Lakers are still finalizing their new contract with Anthony Davis, who is also represented by Klutch CEO Rich Paul.
The Los Angeles Times reported James’ extension is a two-year, $85-million deal through the 2022-23 season. The four-time NBA champion is getting the maximum deal to extend his tenure in Los Angeles, where he moved two seasons ago after his second stint with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
James’ previous contract ran only through the upcoming season with a player option for 2021-22, allowing the third-leading scorer in league history to become a free agent next summer if he chose. Instead, James reportedly committed to play through his 20th NBA season with the Lakers, where he moved in 2018 after title-winning tenures in Cleveland and Miami.
James turns 36 years old in four weeks, but the 16-time All-Star’s level of play hasn’t dipped even slightly after 17 seasons in the league. Davis and James teamed up last season to win the franchise’s 17th championship in the bubble in central Florida. James averaged 25.3 points and led the NBA with 10.2 assists per game last season before winning the NBA Finals MVP award while beating the Miami Heat in a six-game series.
The Lakers are returning this winter with a roster that looks even better than last season’s group on paper, with veterans Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews joining the rotation around James and Davis.
Under the terms reported by the Times, James will make more than $39 million this season, more than $41 million next season and more than $44 million in the final year of his new deal, during which he will turn 39 years old.