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Rockets send Robert Covington to Blazers for Trevor Ariza, picks

Houston has traded Robert Covington to Portland in exchange for Trevor Ariza and draft picks.

Robert Covington thrived in Houston’s frontcourt. Now he’ll try to do the same in Portland.

Houston’s pivotal offseason took another turn with a trade of one of the few role players entrusted with big minutes last season.

The Trail Blazers have acquired forward Robert Covington from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Trevor Ariza, the draft rights to Isaiah Stewart and a conditional future first round pick, it was announced Sunday by Portland president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

Covington, acquired from Minnesota in the middle of last season, averaged 11.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.6 steals in 22 regular-season games with the Rockets. The 6-foot-7 forward often held down the middle at center, a necessity with Houston opting for a “small-ball” lineup that featured no traditional big man. That experiment, however, ended with a Western Conference semifinals loss to the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, with new general manager Rafael Stone and head coach Stephen Silas in place, the Rockets face a future of uncertainty. James Harden and Russell Westbrook each reportedly wants out of Houston, though other reports describe the Rockets as willing to keep both All-Star guards for the 2020-21 season.

Covington, meanwhile, will reinforce a once-injury-ravaged Blazers frontcourt that could not hold up against the Lakers in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. The 29-year-old joins Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins in that rotation, providing further support for Portland’s long-time backcourt duo Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Hassan Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony, both unrestricted free agents, could also return.

Ariza will return to Houston for a second stint after being part of contending Rockets teams from 2014-2018. After bouncing round the league since then, the veteran swingman found his stride in Portland, where he shot 40 percent from 3-point range after the Kings traded him mid-season.