The Associated PressHOUSTON (AP) — Russell Westbrook knows he’s in for a huge change in his move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets.
And he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make the move work as he prepares to play with James Harden for the first time since 2012.
“To be able to win something you have to be able to sacrifice some parts of your game and we both understand that,” Westbrook said. “We both understand that we have one common goal and that’s to win championships. We understand what we have to do.”
Westbrook was introduced Friday in Houston after being traded from the Thunder for Chris Paul and draft picks this month. GM Daryl Morey beamed as he sat next to Westbrook when he made his first appearance as a Rocket.
“Obviously, we’re here for one reason only, to take that next step that we’ve been trying to do for the last few years,” Morey said.
The 2017 Most Valuable Player joins the Rockets after spending his first 11 seasons with Oklahoma City, which included playing with Harden in his first three seasons.
Though the two are close friends and played together successfully with the Thunder, in the days since the trade, many have wondered if pairing these two ball-dominant guards will be successful in Houston. Westbrook brushed off such concerns.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I know James is not worried about it. I can play off the ball. 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 to win.”
Harden didn’t speak to reporters Friday, but did attend the press conference, sitting on the front row smiling at his buddy and often chuckling at Westbrook’s comments and jokes.
The Westbrook who showed up in Houston on Friday was a kinder and far less angry one than the version he was during last year’s playoffs when a sneering and glaring Westbrook made headlines more for his “next question” responses during press conferences than his play as the Thunder were eliminated by Portland in the first round.
He smiled often and laughed a lot, and when asked what he wished people knew about him he quickly responded by saying, “that I’m a nice guy.”
The opportunity to win his first title was the biggest lure to Westbrook’s desire to be in Houston. And the fact that it has him back with Harden, with whom he has been friends since he was 10 years old, made the chance too good to pass up.