James Harden wants to be unforgettable as he eyes multiple NBA championships and looks forward to joining forces with new Houston Rockets team-mate Russell Westbrook.

Harden has been one of the best players in the NBA since he joined the Rockets, averaging 29 or more points per game in each of the last four seasons.

The Rockets star was also named MVP in 2017-18, though seven-time All-Star Harden is yet to win a championship.

"I still haven't accomplished half of what I want to accomplish," Harden told Bleacher Report. "Like, multiple championships.

"I want to be one of those basketball players that you won't forget. And obviously, we all remember the Kobes [Kobe Bryant] and the Jordans [Michael Jordan] and the D-Wades [Dwyane Wade] and all those guys.

"I want to be in that same conversation, obviously, in championships and all that good stuff, and best shooting guards to ever play the game."

Harden's hopes of winning a title have been boosted by the arrival of Westbrook, who he played alongside during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Rockets retooled their roster this offseason when they sent Chris Paul, along with multiple draft picks, to the Thunder in exchange for All-Star and former MVP Westbrook.

The deal reunited Westbrook and Harden, who previously played together in Oklahoma City from 2009-12. 

"[There will be] a lot of ups and downs," Harden added. "But I'm more excited to go into war, postseason, with somebody that is, like, a dog. Somebody that's a killer, for real."

Harden believes the Rockets – who reached the Western Conference semi-finals last season – have a chance to compete for a title, especially with the addition of Westbrook. 

"Of course it [not having a championship] matters to me," Harden said. "I've been thinking about it maybe the last year-and-a-half, two years. I'm on the right path. You can't rush winning a title. Some win it early, some win it late. It's perfect timing.

"The time is going to happen when the time happens. I've just got to be patient, continue to work my butt off, continue to be a great leader, great team-mate, and just try to bring as much talent and as much guys that have that same drive that I have. I think we all have it right now."

Russell Westbrook acknowledged the need for "sacrifice" as he and James Harden try to lead the Houston Rockets to an NBA championship.

Westbrook was acquired by the Rockets in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month, which included future draft picks, pick swaps and Chris Paul leaving Houston.

The 2017 MVP, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive season in 2018-19, but he admits the path to success with a new team might require a different approach. Especially playing alongside his long-time friend and former Thunder team-mate Harden, who was the league's most valuable player in 2018.

Speaking during his introductory news conference on Friday, Westbrook told reporters: "Me and James have been friends for many, many years, since I was 10 actually.

"To be able to win something, you have to be able to sacrifice some parts of your game and we both understand that," Westbrook continued. "We both understand that we have one common goal and that's to win a championship.

"I don't have to touch the ball to impact the game... I can do other things on the floor to make sure we have a better chance of winning."

Westbrook and Harden both like to have the ball a lot. The duo are the only players in NBA history to exceed 40.0 in usage percentage, and now they will have to share a backcourt. They last played together in 2012-13, before Harden was traded to the Rockets.

Since then, both have been named MVP. Regardless, Westbrook is confident the two will can work well together in Houston.

"We play great off the ball with each other. We've done it in OKC," Westbrook said.

Westbrook elaborated on what else he brings to the table, besides orchestrating an offense.

"I think I can be able to help a lot on the rebounding end and switching and finding a way to get into the passing lanes," the 30-year-old added. "Maybe throw a few lobs to James if he's still got it. Figuring out a way to be able to just impact and use my athleticism."

He also addressed his health, as he underwent a procedure on his right knee in May.

"I'll be ready to go by training camp," Westbrook said. "I'm doing great. Taking my time. Resting as much as I can, because we're gon' go after it at the start of the season and I'll be ready to go."

All in all, Westbrook appears like he's prepared for the next chapter.

"I think it's a great opportunity to be able to bring a championship here to Houston," he said. "An opportunity to do great things, have some fun and I'm excited for it."

James Harden says he will not need to make any changes for new team-mate Russell Westbrook when the pair are reunited at the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets completed a blockbuster trade for Westbrook this week, giving the Rockets two of the last three NBA MVPs on their roster.

Harden played with the new arrival at the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2009 and 2012 and is already confident about how their rekindled partnership will work out in a loaded Western Conference.

So much so, he insists nothing will need to change in his game to make the Rockets successful after Westbrook's move.

"None. None. None," he told reporters at an Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event when asked what adjustments would be needed.

"We played with each other in the NBA and the Olympics and all that. When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. 

"You figure things out throughout the course of the season. That's just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.

"It's that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. With the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in, and things are going to go."

Chris Paul, whose relationship with Harden reportedly soured last season, two protected first-round draft selections and two pick swaps were sent to the Thunder to secure Westbrook's arrival.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," added Harden. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's excited. 

"He's been in Oklahoma City for 11 years so it's a new chapter for him. We welcome him with open arms. It's going to work.

"That's my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old. Obviously, we were team-mates for years. Now, we're at different stages of our careers. I hear a lot of negative things, 'You can't, he can't, they can't'. But we'll figure it out."

The Rockets lost out in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs last season, having gone 53-29 to claim the fourth seed in the West.

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Russell Westbrook is the "most important player" in the NBA team's history following his trade to the Houston Rockets.

On Tuesday, the Thunder announced they had finalised the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul.

Westbrook, who spent his first 11 seasons with the franchise, will "always remain part of the Thunder family", Presti said.

"Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder," Presti said in a statement.

"He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community."

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this offseason. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then dealt forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

"We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future," Presti said. "Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this.

"Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years."

The deal reunites Westbrook with James Harden in Houston. The pair played together with the Thunder from 2009-12.

The Thunder could look to trade veteran guard Paul again before the start of 2019-20.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will "make it work" at the Houston Rockets, insisted head coach Mike D'Antoni.

The Rockets acquired Westbrook in a blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, reuniting the 2017 NBA MVP with Harden.

Harden and Westbrook like to control the ball but D'Antoni is confident the latter will fit into Houston's line-up without any drastic changes to accommodate the All-Stars.

"We're not changing much," D'Antoni said on the The Woj Pod while discussing the addition of Westbrook. "We'll tweak it, but to say you've gotta change and you can't win that way, that's B.S."

Some critics believe the Rockets do not spread the ball around enough and play too much isolation.

Now, some are questioning whether it will be even more challenging to play that type of offense with both Harden and Westbrook, who are two ball-dominant players, on the court.

D'Antoni, however, does not think it will be a problem because the two want to play together, and they previously teamed up in Oklahoma City.

"They’ll make it work," D'Antoni said. "Do we sometimes go too much one-on-one? Yeah. Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players."

D'Antoni explained the Rockets will find what works best for both players to maximise their talents.

"I will start looking now at tape and trying to figure out the dynamics between the two and how they played in Oklahoma City and how it's changed since then, in the Olympics," D'Antoni said.

"But it's exciting. Whenever you have great talent, it's exciting because it gives you a chance to win, and that's what we all want to do. But it'll be my job to maximise their talents and what they do best, and it should be really good.

"I saw it in USA Basketball. You put [the stars] all together and they want to make it work, it doesn't matter. The more talent you have, the better it is. And I think right now with this duo and other people, it'll work. Now, to what degree, we'll see."

The Oklahoma City Thunder will be making a lot of first-round picks over the coming years after trading away Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

OKC completed their third major recent trade when they sent Westbrook to the Houston Rockets on Thursday in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul, according to a report from ESPN.

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this offseason. They moved George, who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19, to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then sent forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

In total, Oklahoma City have added eight first-round picks this offseason and hold 15 over the next seven drafts.
 

Here's a complete list of the Thunder's first-round picks from 2020 to 2026.

2020: Own (1-20), Nuggets (1-10)

2021: Own, Miami Heat (swap rights with the Houston Rockets)

2022: Own (1-14), Clippers

2023: Own (swap rights with the Clippers), Heat (1-14)

2024: Own, Clippers, Rockets (1-4)

2025: Own (swap rights with the Clippers, Rockets)

2026: Own, Clippers, Rockets (1-4)

Trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook makes the Houston Rockets a better team, says franchise owner Tilman Fertitta.

According to ESPN, the Rockets have sent Chris Paul and two protected first-rounders in 2024 and 2026 to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2017 NBA MVP. They have also agreed to swap draft picks in 2021 and 2025.

Eight-time All-Star Westbrook, who has averaged a triple-double in each of the past three seasons, sought an exit from the Thunder after they traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Westbrook and Harden helped Oklahoma City reach the 2012 NBA Finals and Fertitta is relishing watching their reunion unfold.

"We're excited to have Russell Westbrook," Fertitta told Fox 26 in Houston.

"I would watch him play for Oklahoma City, and he's so athletic. At the same time this franchise just had the two years with the most wins it's ever had in consecutive years, and we wouldn't have accomplished that without Chris Paul.

"I said at the end of the year we're never gonna stand pat. We're always gonna try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team.

"I think it'll be very interesting and fun. James and Russell wanted to play together. It ought to be fun this year."

It has been suggested the Thunder could immediately look to move Paul on, with the Miami Heat, who were believed to be in the running to get Westbrook, touted as a potential destination.

The Houston Rockets have acquired star guard Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to reports.

In an ESPN report, the Rockets have sent Chris Paul and first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 for the 2017 NBA MVP.

The teams have also swapped picks in 2021 and 2025 as Westbrook reunites with former Thunder team-mate and 2018 MVP James Harden.

After Paul George left the Thunder for the Los Angeles Clippers, eight-time All-Star Westbrook wanted to be sent to the Rockets.

Westbrook and Harden played together in Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2012 – the pair helping the Thunder reach the 2012 NBA Finals.

Last season, Westbrook averaged 22.9 points, 10.7 assists and 11.1 rebounds as the Thunder advanced to the playoffs before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to have entered rebuild mode - and Russell Westbrook could be the next star out the door.

With Kawhi Leonard having persuaded Paul George to leave the Thunder and join him at the Los Angeles Clippers, eight-time All-Star Westbrook is understood to be open to the idea of ending his stay with the franchise.

The 30-year-old point guard, who has undergone a series of operations on his right knee, could prove difficult to move on, though. He has four years and over $160million remaining on the mammoth contract extension he signed in September 2017.

Still, we take a look at the teams that could offer Westbrook a new home.

 

New York Knicks

After trading away franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, losing out on top free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and missing the chance to draft Zion Williamson, the Knicks will no doubt be keen to get a star on board.

They would have to wait until December to put together a package including players who they have recently signed, however.

 

Miami Heat

Having already signed Jimmy Butler in free agency, Miami is understood to be a destination that appeals to Westbrook.

The Heat have already got Hassan Whiteside off their books and could offer the favourable contracts of talented duo Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, but a lack of draft capital to offer may prove troublesome.

 

Detroit Pistons

A move for Westbrook would likely require the Pistons' All-Star center Andre Drummond to head the other way. Still, Detroit's issue is the other salaries they could use in any deal; those contracts run for longer than the Thunder will surely have in mind for any new arrivals.

However, combining the former MVP with Blake Griffin would offer them a greater chance of success in a much-changed Eastern Conference.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves reportedly narrowly missed out on signing D'Angelo Russell, who joined the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Durant to the Nets.

Exchanging Andrew Wiggins' contract, which has four years and more than $120m remaining, for Westbrook undoubtedly presents them an improved chance of contending this season.

Yet such an agreement would again rely on significant draft picks being offered.

 

Other contenders

Putting Westbrook on a team with two other ball-dominant players in James Harden and Chris Paul sounds like a crazy idea, but that has not stopped the Houston Rockets reportedly taking an interest. The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to trade Kevin Love and focus on a rebuild at some stage, though they could scrap that and pair him with Westbrook to make themselves relevant once again.

Oklahoma City superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George underwent offseason surgery, the Thunder announced on Tuesday.

Westbrook had a torn ligament in his finger repaired and also had an "elective" procedure done on his right knee.

George, meanwhile, underwent rotator cuff surgery.

The Thunder had an early exit from this year's NBA playoffs. The number six seed fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in five games in the first round and they have not won a playoff series in the past three seasons.

Westbrook and George are the Thunder's centerpieces, and their health will likely be crucial to the team's success moving forward.

George's four-year, $137million deal has a player option in 2021-2022. Should he decide to stay with Oklahoma City, he will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Westbrook's five-year, $205m contract is good through the 2022-2023 season.

Russell Westbrook is not worried about the critics following the Oklahoma City Thunder's elimination from the NBA playoffs.

Westbrook struggled in the Thunder's Western Conference opening-round series defeat against the Portland Trail Blazers, who sealed a 4-1 victory.

The Thunder star shot just 36 per cent from the field and 32.4 per cent from three-point range as Oklahoma City were eliminated in five games.

Westbrook discussed his performance when he met with reporters on Thursday.

"There used to be conversations if I was a ball hog, but now I lead the league in assists for the past three years or whatever it is, that's getting squashed out," Westbrook said.

"So now the conversation is about shooting. Next year I'm going to become a better shooter.

"I don't really care what people say, what they think about me, because it doesn't really matter. I know what I'm able to do and know what I'm able to do at a high level every night, and nobody else can do what I can do on a night-in, night-out basis, and I truly believe that. If they could, I'm pretty sure they would. But I know for a fact that nobody can."

The eight-time All-Star has averaged a triple-double in each of the last three seasons. But, his Thunder teams have failed to win a playoff series during that time span.

"When you do so much at a high level, a lot of haters come," Westbrook said. "That's how life is, man. That's life, man. When you do so much, people [are] going to try to pull and take away and try to take that away from you. But nobody can take away from me. I've been blessed, and I stay prayerful, stay thankful to be able to do what I'm able to do, and nobody can ever take that away from me."

Fellow Thunder star Paul George praised Westbrook. The former was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Thunder in July 2017 before re-signing with the team last offseason.

"I had a choice and a decision to go anywhere I wanted to in my career, and I chose to come back here," George said. "I mean, come on, that says a lot on its own, what kind of person Russ is.

"He's 100 per cent. He's as pure as a person that you can find. If you're watching him from afar, you might mistake that for him being a certain type of way. But honestly, man, he's one of the best human beings I've ever been a part of."

Westbrook tallied 22.9 points, 10.7 assists and 11.1 rebounds in 36 minutes per game in 2018-19.

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard nailed a buzzer-beating three to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder from the NBA playoffs.

With Portland and Oklahoma City tied 115-115 in the final seconds of the Game-5 clash, Lillard hit a last-gasp three to send the Thunder packing on Tuesday.

Lillard ran down the clock, took a small dribble forward and knocked down a long three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Trail Blazers a dramatic 118-115 win.

The game-winning shot gave the Trail Blazers a 4-1 series win over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference first round.

Lillard was fantastic for Portland all game long. He finished with 50 points on 17-of-33 shooting. He also knocked down 10 of his 18 three-point attempts and added six assists, seven rebounds as well as three steals.

The Thunder appeared to have taken control with a little less than eight minutes to play when Dennis Schroder connected on a three-pointer to put his team ahead 105-90.

But, Portland responded with a 23-8 run and tied the score with 57.1 seconds remaining. Paul George gave the Thunder a two-point advantage on the next possession before Lillard answered with a jumper of his own.

Russell Westbrook followed by missing a go-ahead layup, setting up Lillard's game winner.

George scored 36 points for Oklahoma City in the losing effort while Westbrook tallied a triple-double with 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum insists his team-mates will retain their unwavering focus after moving to the brink of the Western Conference semi-finals. 

McCollum scored 27 on 10-of-20 shooting as the Blazers opened up a 3-1 series lead over Oklahoma City Thunder with an 111-98 win in Game 4. 

Another win in Portland on Tuesday would see the Blazers advance and McCollum is ready to stay above the fray when it comes to trash talk. 

"I think we're a lot more mature than we were in past years," McCollum told reporters. "We can handle adversity and understand what we want to accomplish. 

"We didn't want anything to get in the way, we didn't want anything to interfere with that. Multiple times we had discussions about not saying anything to anyone.  

"If they're not wearing a black or grey jersey, don't talk to them. Don't talk to the refs, don't talk to the other team and let's get out of here with a win 

"That was our mindset. Having been through what we've been through historically we understand what we need to do, who we need to talk to and how we need to execute."

The Blazers were beaten 4-0 in the first round against the New Orleans Pelicans last year, having suffered the same fate against the Golden State Warriors in 2017 – setbacks that act as enduring motivation for McCollum. 

"We got swept last year. It was really embarrassing, and everybody talked about it," he said. 

"It was on TV every day. They talked about us getting swept, they talked about me getting traded, talked about how we can't win together. 

"We remember, and we know that feeling of going home early." 

Barring a stunning turnaround, it will be the Thunder and Russell Westbrook heading home early. 

Star point guard Westbrook finished the game by missing 10 straight shots and relied heavily on his jump shot throughout, taking only three shots in the paint and missing each one. 

"I get deep paint any time I want, but I always make the right play," Westbrook said, as quoted by ESPN.  

"So, when I'm in deep paint I find guys on the perimeter. My job is to make sure guys get the basketball.  

"I don't need to shoot a layup every single time. But I'm in the paint all game, and that's how it goes sometimes.  

"Shot attempts is not the only thing that I can do to make sure I'm in it for the defence and kick it out to make open shots."

Paul George called Russell Westbrook "a man of his word" after leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a tetchy Game 3 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Westbrook stated his display in a Game 2 loss in Portland was "unacceptable" and stepped up brilliantly on Friday, contributing 33 points and 11 assists as the Thunder took their first victory of the series.

The Blazers threatened to move towards a 3-0 lead with a brilliant third quarter that saw Damian Lillard drop 25 of his 32 points, but the point guard was shut down in the final period as Oklahoma City completed a 120-108 win in a fiery encounter.

George said of Westbrook: "He's a man of his word. He came out, he led, we got behind him and he put us on his back."

Westbrook did his 'rock the baby' celebration after scoring an and-one jump shot over Lillard in the third quarter and the two continued to engage in verbal sparring as OKC closed in on victory.

George was also involved in the back and forth and he threw down a dunk after time expired that did not impress Lillard.

He said: "It's the playoffs, people do things that maybe they're trying to get under somebody's skin, or maybe trying to make a statement.

"It doesn't matter. The game was over; the game was decided. Typically, people say you don't do stuff like that, but honestly I really couldn't care less.

"The game had been decided and if that's something they needed to do to make themselves feel more dominant or feel better, then so be it."

When asked about the dunk, George reiterated Westbrook's last answer in a tense news conference by saying: "Next question."

Dennis Schroder taunted Lillard with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter by copying his 'Dame Time' celebration.

"I did see it. I thought it was kind of funny that he waited so late in the game, when he knew the game was decided, to do it," said Lillard.

"And he also hadn't done that in the first two games. So I thought that was interesting."

Russell Westbrook remains confident the Oklahoma City Thunder can progress to the Western Conference semi-finals despite falling 2-0 behind to the Portland Trail Blazers. 

After losing Game 1 by five points, the Thunder were beaten 114-94 on Tuesday as Portland started the first-round series with back-to-back home wins. 

Eight-time NBA All-Star Westbrook is not concerned, though, particularly with Oklahoma hosting the next two matches later this week. 

"They won their first two home games. We obviously wanted to try to steal one when we can but the message is just stay with it," said the point guard. 

"[We have] a lot of great guys on this basketball team that I trust in to make shots and make plays on both sides of the basketball.  

"We'll be alright." 

For Thunder coach Billy Donovan a poor third quarter from his side was key to their defeat at Moda Center – the Blazers having outscored Oklahoma 37-21. 

"Our defence laboured and obviously [Portland] putting the ball on the floor and attacking us [hurt us]," said Donovan. 

"After the third quarter, we were playing uphill to get back into the game and I thought the difference in the game was that third quarter. 

"I felt like we didn't move the ball as well as we needed to in the third quarter in terms of generating penetration, finding the open man and moving it when they were bringing help." 

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