It was an open secret all season that the Los Angeles Lakers were pretty likely to trade Lou Williams by the trade deadline so long as he played well.
The second part ended up happening, with Williams leading the Lakers’ bench for the first half of the year and functioning as a scoring God in fourth quarters, with the Lakers scoring 112.9 point per 100 possession when Williams was on the floor in final periods.
Multiple opposing general managers were reportedly interested in acquiring Williams as the trade deadline approached, and it turns out they weren’t the only ones.
Williams told Shams Charania of the Vertical that a certain bearded MVP candidate may have had something to do with the Houston Rockets’ decision to send the Lakers a first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in order to add the perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate to their team for the stretch run:
Two weeks before the NBA trade deadline, a rival player called Lou Williams. The Houston Rockets’ James Harden watched Williams flourish this season, helping lead the perennial All-Star’s hometown Los Angeles Lakers to a strong start, and he had an idea to pitch.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
Technically this isn’t tampering, as that only occurs when executives talk to players like this, but it is interesting to learn just how interested Harden was in adding Williams to the Rockets as they gear up for a playoff run.
The Lakers have struggled since moving Williams, but the acquiring an asset for a player unlikely to be a part of their next contending team always made more sense than hanging on to him. The move was a win-win for both sides, and the Lakers should probably thank Harden if he was part of the driving force to make it happen.