Los Angeles Clippers guard John Wall dribbles during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

While teams like the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks got better in the Western Conference ahead of Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline, the last-place Rockets pulled off a three-team trade that left many scratching their heads.

In the three-team trade involving the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and the Rockets, John Wall was traded back to the team that bought him out of the final year of a $47 million deal in June. The Rockets were able to trade frustrated veteran guard Eric Gordon along with three second-round picks to the Clippers, for Wall, veteran shooting guard Danny Green and a pick swap.

“Throughout his six and a half seasons as a Rocket, Eric did everything we asked of him and more both on the court and in the community,” said General Manager Rafael Stone.  “We wish him nothing but the best and want him to know he’ll always have a home here in Houston.”

It’s expected that Wall and Rockets will soon reach another buyout agreement, this time on his two-year $13.2 million deal he signed with the Clippers last summer, so that he can again become an unrestricted free agent.

Wall being a part of the trade package for Gordon was shocking news Thursday considering his short tenure with the Rockets that played out with decision to not play him at all during the 2019-2020 season while the team tried to trade him and the final two years on a contract that paid him over $90 million. Finally, the two sides reached a buyout agreement that freed Wall to sign with the Clippers.

Wall, of course, came to Houston as part of the trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards. At the time, Wall was coming off an Achilles injury that had had him sidelined for nearly two seasons.

Wall thought he was coming to the Rockets to be paired with James Harden, but he quickly found out Harden had already mentally checked out because he wanted to be traded. Suddenly the Rockets were in rebuild mode, which wasn’t what he signed up for at this late stage of his career.

But during his one season of actually playing for the Rockets, Wall showed flashes of his former All-Star form, averaging 20.6 points, 6.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 40 games here.

Going into the next season, however, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone informed Wall that he would be coming off the bench to allow the younger backcourt of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter, Jr. the chance to grow together. That idea didn’t sit well with Wall, so the decision was made to sit him while a trade could be worked out.

Wall has since been critical of the Rockets in recent interviews. He accused the franchise of tanking in order to move up in the NBA Lottery pecking order.

Wall also talked about Jalen Green and Porter needing to learn how to play the right way in order to win and the need for some veteran leadership. Danny Green should be able to help in that regard, but how much remains to be seen. 

The Rockets also announced they have acquired guard Justin Holiday and forward/center Frank Kaminsky from Atlanta, along with two future second round picks conveyed by Oklahoma City, in exchange for center Bruno Fernando and guard Garrison Mathews.