It’s been quite a while since the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets were rivals, if you can call it that. There was a lot of bad blood between the Dubs and Rockets, and they repeatedly met in the postseason. That has all the makings of a rivalry.
Then again, is it really a rivalry if the same team comes out on top every single time?
That’s a story for another day, when I’m feeling spicy and want to take a shot or seven at the Rockets organization, James Harden, and Daryl Morey, who are now all split up.
But it’s been a while since that bad blood got to build up. The Warriors were awful in 2019-20, courtesy of severe injuries to both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Rockets were useless last season, as Harden abandoned the team and demanded out, finally finding his way to Brooklyn to team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
And Houston was left to rebuild.
They’re off to a solid start, after adding exciting youngsters Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr., then having a tremendous 2021 draft class starring Jalen Green, Alperen Şengün, and Josh Cristopher.
But for the second year in a row, it seems that a veteran All-Star will be leaving them, albeit one with a bit less shine than Harden.
According to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Rockets and five-time All-Star point guard John Wall are expected to pursue opportunities for the two sides to split up.
That’s easier said than done. Wall has two years remaining on his contract for more $91 million, plus a 15% trade kicker. He’s played just 113 games over the last four seasons, the result of some lower body injuries. And while he has some great accolades to his name, he’s never been an efficient scorer, and didn’t look good last season.
In other words, he probably has the least tradable contract in the NBA, and probably by a landslide. It could be that he gets used to help match salaries if, say, the Philadelphia 76ers get truly desperate in their attempts to trade Ben Simmons. But that doesn’t seem very likely.
There’s always the chance of a buyout, but $91 million is a lot of money, and there’s a reason you don’t see many buyouts that come close to approaching that figure.
The good news for Houston is that things seem to be amicable and functional, unlike last year’s Harden situation. Wall is expected to report to training camp, and while he won’t play in games, he’ll take on a mentorship role until the situation is resolved.
Rockets sources emphasized that Wall has been "a rock" for franchise over tumultuous last year. He's expected to participate in camp and remain around team but not play in games. Hope is his wisdom/leadership can still help Porter, Green and other young players.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 14, 2021
It seems unlikely that any movement on the Wall front will have a meaningful impact on the NBA landscape, so this is unlikely to effect the Warriors in any way. After all, the Rockets have made two recent blockbuster point guard trades (first trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, and then Westbrook for Wall), and they’ve gotten substantially worse each time.
But a move this big can always leave a lasting impression across the league, and if nothing else, it’s always a strong reminder as to how lucky Warriors fans are.