Russell Westbrook's camp believes he was "made out to be a scapegoat of sorts for Houston's playoff meltdown," sources tell The Athletic. A similar situation occurred in 2019 when the Rockets were eliminated by the Warriors on their home floor in Game 6 despite Kevin Durant being injured.

The Rockets were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Lakers in five games, which "sources believe is the real reason Harden and Westbrook wanted to leave."

With a championship as the main goal, there was an acknowledgement "Harden and Westbrook simply couldn't co-exist on the floor. This isn’t a knock on their personal relationship, an aspect that has been misconstrued in recent weeks. Harden and Westbrook have a deep-rooted friendship that spans over decades."