Toronto Star

NBA: Westbrook for Wall marks changing of the guards


HOUSTON— Russell Westbrook is headed to the Washington Wizards and John Wall is moving to the Houston Rockets in a significan­t swap of point guards — one an MVP, the other a No. 1 overall draft pick — just weeks before the season starts.

The Wizards shipped a future lottery-protected first round pick to the Rockets on Wednesday night.

“Having the opportunit­y to acquire a player of Russell’s calibre and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a release. “With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult.

What he has meant to our organizati­on and our community is immeasurab­le and will not be forgotten.”

While Wall has played his entire pro career in the nation’s capital, the move ends Westbrook’s tenure in Houston after just one disappoint­ing season. He arrived from Oklahoma City in July 2019 for Chris Paul and draft picks.

In other NBA news:

á The league announced 48 players have tested positive for the coronaviru­s since testing resumed last week. The NBA and players union said 546 players were tested between Nov. 24 and 30 after returning to team markets. That means about 9 per cent of the results were positive. á The Detroit Pistons agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with LiAngelo Ball, a source told The Associated Press, confirming a

report by the Athletic. Ball is the brother of Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and Hornets lottery pick LaMelo Ball.

The Rockets had hoped the 32-year-old Westbrook would be the final piece they needed to win their first title since winning back-to-back titles in 199495. But instead, Houston was eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champion Lakers in the Western semifinals. Westbrook was the 2017 NBA MVP and is a nine-time all-star, but has failed to win a title.

Many questioned whether the pairing of two ball-dominant guards like Westbrook and James Harden would work in Houston, but the longtime friends insisted that it would. After the Rockets were sent home from the playoffs early again, rumours started to swirl that the two weren’t happy in Houston and both wanted out. But after spending years building their entire team around Harden, who won MVP honours in 2018, the Rockets weren’t interested in parting with him.

The Westbrook-Wall deal works under the NBA’s rules because the two players are owed about the same amount: more than $80 million (U.S.) over the next two seasons, plus a player option of more than $45 million for 2022-23.

And both were looking to move on.

 ??  ?? Russell Westbrook and John Wall will each make about $80M over the next two years.
Russell Westbrook and John Wall will each make about $80M over the next two years.
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