Like the opening theme to Netflix’s Big Mouth, the Houston Rockets went through some changes in the offseason. Not only did they trade Chris Paul and a flurry of draft picks to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook, but they also rebranded for the first time since 2003 because of the team’s new owner, Tilman Feritta.
Suffice to say, Ferrita thinks change is a good thing, and he made that clear when he sat down with Sam Amick of The Athletic to talk about his second offseason and the upcoming season with Westbrook, or as Feritta seems to see it; the first season without Paul:
You know, we think we’re a much better team. We used to be one of the top transition teams (in the league), and we’ve slowed down the last few years (they were 27th in pace last season, 13th in 2017-18, and third in the 2016-17 season before Paul arrived). And James and Russ go back a long ways in California, so they can talk to each other like brothers, you know, instead of one (player) thinking that he’s the mentor. I just think it’s going to go well. They both want to win.
Ironically, the first big move the Rockets made under Feritta’s regime was re-signing Paul to a four-year, $159.7 million contract. However, it didn’t take long for Feritta to regret his decision. In fact, according a report by Tim MacMahon of ESPN earlier this summer, Feritta talked about how bad he thought Paul’s contract was in front of rival executives.
As much as the rift between Paul and James Harden seemingly played a role of Paul’s exit from the team, it sounds like the people at the top wanted Paul gone as well.
Now, Paul is expected to start the season in Oklahoma City with a young Thunder team, while Harden, Westbrook and the Rockets will try and breathe new life into a team that has fallen short of the Western Conference Finals in three of the last five years. While Westbrook might not be the be-all, end-all solution to get the Rockets over the hump, he at least has the support of the team’s ownership, which is apparently more than Paul could say.