Harden, Westbrook Reportedly Want Out of Houston, Citing Rockets Owner Fertitta’s Politics

Posted on: November 18, 2020, 01:38h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2020, 11:42h.

Last season, the Houston Rockets were one of NBA’s best teams. But now they could be on the verge of a dramatic breakup. That could be because of the team’s owner Tilman Fertitta’s ties to President Trump and the Republican Party.

Rockets Trade
Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, right, seen here with team owner Tilman Fertitta during happier days. Reports are circulating that Harden, Russell Westbrook, and possibly other players want to leave the team because of Fertitta’s political ties to President Trump. (Image: Michael Wyke/Associated Press)

James Harden, who has led the league in scoring the past three seasons, and Russell Westbrook, a two-time season scoring champion and two-time season assists leader, have sought trades out of Houston. Bleacher Report and Fox Sports basketball writer Ric Bucher said it was because of politics – and not the locker room kind.

What I heard is, and we know how much politics and political position had to do with the boycott and protests during the Bubble, I’m hearing that Tilman Fertitta’s strong Republican support and donations is one of the things that is contributing to this dissatisfaction… There is a revolt here because they look at Fertitta as a guy who supports the current President,” Bucher said on Fox Sports’ The Odd Couple podcast.

Fertitta not only owns the Rockets but also owns the Golden Nugget chain of casinos as well. Fertitta’s Landry’s Inc. purchased what is now the Golden Nugget Atlantic City from Trump Entertainment Resorts nearly a decade ago. But by that time, Trump held just a 10 percent stake in the company as it emerged out of bankruptcy.

Fertitta Spox Claims He’s Bipartisan

Late Tuesday, a spokesperson for Fertitta issued a statement to TMZ that the billionaire businessman supports both Republicans and Democrats, including President-elect Joe Biden.

“Throughout his business career, Tilman Fertitta has supported many individuals in public service. He has hosted numerous fundraisers for President Bill Clinton and hosted President George W. Bush in his home,” the statement said.

While Fertitta may support both sides, according to data from the Federal Election Commission, the support has been decidedly Republican since 2019. In that time, he’s made 32 contributions totaling $573,000 to federal candidates or political action committees. Only four of those, totaling $18,200, have been to Democrats, including a $2,800 contribution on Oct. 7 to the Biden campaign.

Meanwhile, Fertitta gave $70,000 to Trump’s political action committee since the start of 2019, as well as $200 in contributions to the president’s re-election committee.

Houston May Hold On, For Now

On Tuesday, ESPN reported that Houston’s management is willing to hold on to their superstar MVP Award-winning guards as the start of preseason training for the 2020-21 season draws near. Both happen to be under contract for at least the next two seasons.

The NBA released details Tuesday about the planned 72-game regular season, scheduled to start on Dec. 22. Preseason games will start on Dec. 11.

However, reports have also circulated that Rockets officials have had conversations with the Washington Wizards about sending Westbrook there.

Meanwhile, rumors indicate that Harden has turned down a $50 million per year extension to stay in Houston. For comparison, Steph Curry made about $40 million last season as the league’s highest-paid player.

Harden’s focus has been on working a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. There, he would reunite with his former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant. If that pairing comes to fruition, it would make the Nets a serious contender in the Eastern Conference. That comes as the favorite Milwaukee Bucks have added several pieces in recent days to build around two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Rockets Fall, Nets Rise on NBA Futures Odds Board

Reports of the Rockets breakup have apparently affected Houston’s odds for the 20-21 season. A month ago, after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship, FanDuel listed the Rockets at +1600. That made them the co-eighth choice, along with the Denver Nuggets, to win the title.

As of early Wednesday morning, the Rockets odds are now +3600. That makes them the 12th selection, along with the Utah Jazz. If somehow Harden and Westbrook can make amends with Fertitta, those odds could have some value tied to them.

Meanwhile, the Nets are creeping up the board. A month ago, they were available for +1300 at FanDuel. Now, they’re the third choice at +600, behind only the Lakers (+330) and the Bucks (+500).

Other teams rounding out the top five at FanDuel are the Los Angeles Clippers at +700 and the Golden State Warriors at +950.