Rockets Owner: Title Window ‘Next Three or Four Years’

Rockets team owner Tilman Fertitta believes his team has an NBA championship window in the “next three or four years” to win it all.

Otherwise, “we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” says Fertitta.

Fertitta adds that newcomer Russell Westbrook‘s athleticism is an element Houston was “a little short on,” and is confident he can happily co-exist with fellow superstar teammate James Harden.

Per Yahoo Sports:

“I think we put ourselves in the position that if we don’t win it in the next three or four years, we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports in an interview to promote his debut book titled “Shut Up And Listen,” which hits all major bookstores on Tuesday. “This is our window, and we need to seize the opportunity.”

The Texas billionaire, who is also sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, the restaurant giant Landry’s and the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, is running his NBA team in the same manner as his other business ventures: audaciously and unwavering.

“This is the time,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports. “I just re-signed Eric Gordon who is 30 and I’ve got Russell and James and Eric and Clint Capela for the next four years. P.J. [Tucker] is 34 and our two stars are 30. So this is their window. Let’s seize the opportunity.”

Fertitta says he was never concerned about bringing in another ball-dominant guard to pair with Harden.

“No, because I can remember watching Russell Westbrook against us a couple of times last year and I saw how he ran up and down that court and how his athleticism was so superior,” he told Yahoo Sports. “And I think it’s one of the things that we were a little short on.”

Related Rockets Owner: Russell Westbrook and James Harden ‘Wanted to Play Together’

The post Rockets Owner: Title Window ‘Next Three or Four Years’ appeared first on SLAM.

Russell Westbrook Says He and James Harden Will ‘Play Great Off the Ball’

Russell Westbrook is confident that he and fellow superstar teammate James Harden will happily co-exist in Houston next season.

Westbrook says the two dominant offensive machines are “great” at playing off the ball with one another.

Russ adds that he’ll bring a lot more to the table for the Rockets than just scoring and handling the rock.

Per The Athletic:

At the start of the offseason, Harden communicated to the front office that he liked the idea of playing with Westbrook, league sources told The Athletic.

“I think we play great off the ball with each other,” Westbrook told The Athletic.

“We’ve done it in Oklahoma City. Many times in Oklahoma City, James, he closed the game as the primary ball-handler, and I played off the ball. It’s totally fine for me because, like I have said before, offensively and scoring and having the ball in my hands is not the only thing I can do for the game. I do a lot of great things for the game and I look forward to doing that with this team as well.”

Team sources have expressed confidence in that Westbrook and Harden will both implement more off-ball movement into their games, particularly in a half-court setting, and were pleased with Westbrook’s comments during his introductory press conference.

Related James Harden: ‘I Know How to Play With Russ and He Knows How to Play With Me’

The post Russell Westbrook Says He and James Harden Will ‘Play Great Off the Ball’ appeared first on SLAM.

PJ Tucker: ‘It’s Time for My Extension Right Now’

PJ Tucker is “optimistic” about re-upping in Houston.

“It’s time for my extension right now,” says the 34-year-old veteran forward.

Tucker adds that he’s confident the Rockets will smoothly transition from Chris Paul to newcomer Russell Westbrook next season.

Per The Athletic:

“We lost a great player, we got a great player,” Tucker said. “We got a lot of guys back. We still got a core of our team. You know, it is what it is. It’s the NBA, changes are made. All you do is look at yourself and your teammates, keep your eyes on the next season and try to go after it, so now I plan to do that this year.”

“I’ma do what I do, man. I’ll help Russ in any way I can. I’m gonna be one of the leaders on the team, (especially) defensively. I’m just gonna do me, I’m gonna do what I do every single night to the best of my ability.”

As far as his long-term future with Houston, both Tucker and the team want him to stick around. This season is the last fully guaranteed year he has on the four-year, $32 million deal he signed in 2016. With 2020-21 only partially guaranteed, Tucker wants his future sorted out sooner, rather than later.

“It’s now,” he said of getting a new deal done. “It’s time for my extension right now, so we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I’m optimistic, we’ll see.”

Related PJ Tucker: Rockets ‘Were a Hamstring Away from Having a Championship’

The post PJ Tucker: ‘It’s Time for My Extension Right Now’ appeared first on SLAM.

PJ Tucker: Houston Rockets ‘Were a Hamstring Away from Having a Championship’

PJ Tucker says Houston has a “chance to compete for a championship” this season, and that they were “a hamstring away” from winning it all when Chris Paul went down in the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

The veteran forward believes the NBA title race is “wide open this year.”

Tucker, 34, adds that he vehemently disagrees with the widely-held assumption that James Harden and new superstar Rockets teammate Russell Westbrook “can’t work together.”

Per The WaPo:

“I hate when people talk about certain guys and say they can’t work together,” Tucker said. “It may not work with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard [on the Los Angeles Clippers]. It may not work with Anthony Davis and LeBron James [on the Los Angeles Lakers]. It may not work with anybody.

“[Westbrook] is another super aggressive guy who can attack the rim and score the ball. That opens everything up for everyone else. [Harden and Westbrook] know each other’s games. They’ve played together when they were young, and they’re excited to play together again. If they’re excited, I’m excited.”

That trek left him appreciating what Houston accomplished with Harden and Paul rather than dwelling on the partnership’s abrupt ending.

“We were a hamstring away from having a championship,” Tucker said, referring to Paul’s ill-timed injury in the 2018 Western Conference finals against Golden State. “You can rate it how you want and say what you want, but it was a great run. We won a franchise-record [65 games in 2017-18]. The [decision to trade Paul] is something that’s over my pay grade. I just play.”

Related PJ Tucker: Houston Rockets Drama ‘Fake News’

The post PJ Tucker: Houston Rockets ‘Were a Hamstring Away from Having a Championship’ appeared first on SLAM.

‘Gonna Look Like a Travel But It’s Not’: James Harden Working on New Move

James Harden told a group of youngsters at a promotional event Friday that he’s working a new move that will “look like a travel but it’s not.”

Harden, when asked by one kid how he’s able to get away with “that traveling step-back,” responded that he will “come up with something more creative.”

“In the NBA, especially at the highest level of basketball, you got to find ways to get better every single year,” Harden said. “You got to find ways to create an advantage every single year. And that’s what I’m doing. It’s not a travel.

“This year, I’m going to come up with something more creative, and it’s gonna look like a travel but it’s not. Honestly! Even when I was on a tour, in Europe or China, or even when I’m here in the U.S., I see kids your guys’ age that are working on step-backs, working on moves, because it’s going to gain you an opportunity to be better than the rest of your peers. And that’s what I’m going for.

“So until they call it a travel, if they start calling it, I’ll continue to find ways and find ways to get creative and make my impact on the game.”

The 2018 MVP says he expects new All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook to have an “easy transition” with the Houston Rockets.

Per The Houston Chronicle:

“I’m excited,” Harden said. “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.”

Harden was so confident about how Westbrook would fit, when asked about adjustments he or Westbrook would need to make he said: “None. None. None. We played with each other in the NBA and the (2012) 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, you figure things out. 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.”

Harden showed he was aware of the questions about meshing his style with Westbrook’s when asked about the pairing by one of the campers to participate in Harden’s camp over the weekend. But he was also unconcerned.

“That’s my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old,” Harden said. “Obviously, we were teammates for (three) years. Now, we’re at different stages of our careers. I’m excited for the opportunity. I hear a lot of negative things: you can’t, he can’t, they can’t. But we’ll figure it out. I’m excited for the opportunity. I know the rest of the organization is. It’s time.”

Related James Harden Will Not ‘Tell’ on Himself Getting Away With Travel vs Jazz

The post ‘Gonna Look Like a Travel But It’s Not’: James Harden Working on New Move appeared first on SLAM.

Mike D’Antoni: Houston ‘One of the Favorites in the West, if Not the Favorite’

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoniis amped for what he believes will be a “great year” in Houston, with his team as “one of the favorites in the West, if not the favorite.”

D’Antoni says James Harden and new superstar teammate Russell Westbrook will “make it work” in H-Town.

Chris Paul is “going to be sorely missed,” according to D’Antoni, who adds that he can’t wait to work alongside the force of nature that is Westbrook.

Per The Houston Chronicle:

“That’s what great players do,” D’Antoni said. “Great players figure it out. They make it work.

“I go back to USA Basketball,” said D’Antoni, an assistant on the 2012 Olympic team that included Westbrook and Harden. “You have all those guys, and all of them have the ball in their hands. When you want to make it work, they all did. You’ve got the best team in the world with all that talent — nobody stepped on anybody’s toes. It was great. It’ll be the same thing.

“You only get problems when the chemistry is not right or they don’t want to be there. I’m excited about it, and I think the pairing will work.”

D’Antoni also cited Westbrook’s strength as an explosive ballhandler. Harden led the NBA and Westbrook was third in drives per game, but Westbrook led the league by far in assists off drives.

“I think he’ll have a lot more room to get to the rim,” D’Antoni said of Westbrook. “He’s going to find a way to be devastating. He always has. That’s the way great players are. It makes my job a lot easier. We’ll try to maximize their potential and get the most out of everybody on the floor. He’s going to help with the rebounding and playing with such athleticism. That’s probably something we missed: the athleticism. He’ll bring that dynamic. He’ll bring a force to the table.”

Related Rockets Owner: Russell Westbrook and James Harden ‘Wanted to Play Together’

The post Mike D’Antoni: Houston ‘One of the Favorites in the West, if Not the Favorite’ appeared first on SLAM.

James Harden: ‘I Know How to Play With Russ and He Knows How to Play With Me’

James Harden assured Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that he and Russell Westbrook will happily co-exist in Houston.

“I know how to play with Russ and he knows how to play with me,” Harden told Morey prior to the blockbuster trade that landed Westbrook, and sent Chris Paul to the OKC Thunder.

The two former MVPs are each chasing their first NBA title, and will re-join forces after spending three years together as young pups in OKC.

Per ESPN:

As discussions between the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder on a blockbuster deal for Russell Westbrook grew serious Thursday, Daryl Morey, Houston’s general manager, called James Harden to discuss how both stars might work together. Harden gently cut Morey off and reminded him: “I know how to play with Russ and he knows how to play with me,” Morey recounted to ESPN.com late Thursday in Las Vegas.

That was Harden’s message to Morey over the phone on Thursday. That was Westbrook’s message in choosing the Rockets as one of his destinations — along with the Miami Heat, who may now pursue Paul as something of a consolation prize. (The Rockets hoped to turn the deal into a three-team trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.)

Westbrook was enthusiastic about playing with Harden again, per sources familiar with the talks. That kind of buy-in matters. Both superstars will have to change for this to work, even though Mike D’Antoni will probably stagger minutes as rigidly as he did with Harden and Paul. D’Antoni’s experience coaching Westbrook on Team USA boosted Houston’s comfort level making this deal, sources say. The Thunder belonged to Westbrook in almost every way. The Rockets do not. Maybe that alone will spur some change in him.

Related Rockets Owner: Russell Westbrook and James Harden ‘Wanted to Play Together’

The post James Harden: ‘I Know How to Play With Russ and He Knows How to Play With Me’ appeared first on SLAM.