Knicks weigh Westbrook trade, Rockets star denies Harden rift

New York Knicks, Russell Westbrook
Sep 4, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in game one of the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Russell Westbrook coming out in the open to deny the supposed rift with James Harden, the trade chatter just wouldn’t die.

Westbrook replied on ESPN’s Instagram post quoting Stephen A. Smith’s claim of the alleged rift, denying that the Rockets’ superstars no longer want to play together.

”It’s my birthday, but I should say. This is completely fabricated. Y’all have a good night,” Westbrook said.

But even Westbrook’s denial couldn’t stop the trade chatter building up for what could be a blockbuster trade in this compressed offseason.

Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted on Friday that the New York Knicks have weighed trading for Westbrook.

There’s a debate whether the Knicks are willing to absorb the massive $132.7 million left on his five-year, $206.8 million contract.

The Knicks are one of the only few teams who can absorb Westbrook’s contract without having to match salaries. The other teams who have cap space are the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons.

Jonathan Macri of the New York Film School, on the other hand, wrote in his Friday newsletter that a package centered on Julius Randle had been discussed.

“According to multiple league sources, the Knicks have discussed the specifics of a package that would bring the 2016-17 NBA MVP to New York. The sources indicate that none of the Knicks’ key young pieces are on the table (read: RJ, Mitch, and as far as I can tell, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina), nor will they be. The same goes for any of New York’s own draft picks. I’ve heard Julius Randle would be going, along with some sort of draft asset – maybe 27, maybe 38, maybe one of the Dallas picks – but I can’t confirm which,” Macri wrote.

Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of also tweeted last night that the Knicks are not the only team in Westbrook/Rockets’ trade partner wishlist.

Robinson also reported that the Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers have also discussed trading Paul George in exchange for Westbrook and Robert Covington.

Westbrook, a nine-time All-NBA team member, had just turned 32 yesterday. The Rockets acquired Westbrook from Oklahoma City Thunder last year in exchange for Chris Paul. The Rockets also sent two protected first-round picks to the Thunder.

Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.6 steals in 57 games for the Rockets last season.

Earlier this week, ESPN reported that both Westbrook and Harden had expressed concern on the franchise’s direction after parting ways with former coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey.

The Rockets, who elevated Rafael Stone from assistant to general manager, and hiring first-time head coach Stephen Silas, have maintained they are still committed to contending for the title around their superstars.

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