The Houston Rockets have some interesting decisions to make this offseason with their two biggest stars reportedly butting heads. While the tension between James Harden and Chris Paul may not impact the team’s championships aspirations, it is apparently very real.
After the Rockets were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, Harden and Paul had a tense exchange in the locker room that centered on ball distribution — or lack thereof — during Game 6. Sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that Paul felt Harden had dominated the ball too much and believed running more set plays would have been effective as the Warriors were mounting a fourth-quarter comeback.
MacMahon notes that the “prevailing belief” is the tension between Harden and Paul is typical for NBA superstars who are teammates and that it can be managed. However, Harden and Paul have been clashing both because of playing style and personality.
“Chris wants to coach James,” a source told MacMahon. “James looks at him like, ‘You can’t even beat your man. Just shut up and watch me.'”
Paul is also said to be frustrated with Harden’s lack of commitment to spacing and moving when he does not have the ball. The report went on to state that CP3 “cherishes” the opportunity to be on the floor without Harden. Here’s more:
It has reached a point, team sources say, where Paul cherishes the chance to play without Harden on the floor. On several occasions, according to team sources, Paul barked at D’Antoni to keep Harden on the bench while he was running the second unit. Harden simultaneously would lobby — or demand — to check back into the game.
Again, a lot of this is normal — especially after a tough postseason exit. The Rockets aren’t going to trade Harden, and Paul is a 34-year-old player on the downside of his career who is owed $124 million over the next three years. Houston is probably better off just keeping him if they want to contend again next season.
If you believe what Mike D’Antoni said about the supposed issues between Harden and Paul, there is nothing to worry about. Winning cures all, and the Western Conference suddenly looks more open than it has in years with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson potentially missing the entire 2019-20 season. This could be Houston’s best chance to make an NBA Finals run, and Paul and Harden likely realize that.
This comes on the heels of a report that Harden and Paul had a tense disagreement after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors.
D’Antoni is doing what he should be doing here, which is trying to turn a negative report into nothing. All is not perfect in Houston, but it was not as if the Rockets performed badly this season, so it seems manageable for now.
The Houston Rockets endured a disappointing end to their season this year, one that left their star players in a verbal back-and-forth, according to a report.
Houston feel to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs for the second year in a row. The difference is they lost a round and game earlier than last year, and they went down in Games 5 and 6 despite Golden State not having Kevin Durant.
“But Harden and Paul had tense moments with one another throughout Game 6, culminating in a verbal back-and-forth postgame that went into the locker room, sources with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. Sources said the verbal exchange between Harden and Paul was regarding the ball distribution throughout Game 6. By the time the remainder of the locker room was ready to talk, Paul and Harden had gone their separate ways, with Paul swiftly making his way to the postgame podium.”
None of this should be surprising. Two teammates were arguing/in disagreement about sharing the ball following a season-ending loss in the playoffs against the Warriors? This probably happens in every locker room.
Chris Paul has been the target of criticism from many people evaluating the Rockets’ future, but the point guard still has the support of ownership.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta spoke with the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen on Thursday and expressed his support for CP3 despite the criticism the point guard has received for posting his worst statistical season.
“You can’t just look at Chris’ statistics, assists and points,” Fertitta said, via Feigen. “Chris does things all through the game to disrupt the other team. Chris is smart. I think Chris has a lot in him to contribute in the next couple years. He’s got savvy and intelligence that helps the team.”
Paul’s 15.6 points and 41.9 percent field goal shooting this season were the lowest marks of his career. Outside of Game 6 against the Warriors, he didn’t look like a special player during the playoffs.
Paul is 34, has only played in 58 regular season games each of the last two seasons, has chronic hamstring/leg issues, and he is signed to make $123 million over the next three seasons. We just don’t share the same optimism about his future role with the franchise as Fertitta does.
Chris Paul and the Rockets say the reports of Stephen Curry being kicked off the Toyota Center court before Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals have been overblown, but Curry’s reaction seems to indicate there was more to it than the Houston side is letting on.
Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic reports that Warriors team manager Eric Housen booked some time from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the Toyota Center court prior to Game 4 so Curry could work on his shot. When Paul found out about the practice session, he supposedly showed up and gave Curry the boot so he could work on his own shot — even after Curry offered to stick to one half of the court.
Paul and others with the Rockets have disputed that Curry was kicked off the court. Houston developmental coach Irv Roland told Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle on Saturday that there were no issues and that Paul and Curry even joked with one another.
“When we finally went out there, Stephen cracked a joked with Chris. Chris said ‘let him shoot.’ It wasn’t like it was a confrontation. ‘Let him shoot. Let him finish what he’s doing,’” Roland recalled. “We didn’t kick him off the court. We didn’t even say anything. I wanted to know how long he was shooting because I had Chris with Michael Frazier and James Harden coming right after Chris. I wanted to know how long he was going to be before James left the house.”
It certainly would not be a surprise if the media blew the story out of proportion, but how do you explain Curry’s reaction after the Warriors closed on the series with a win in Game 6 Friday night? As he made his way to the locker room following his 33-point explosion in the second half, Curry triumphantly said, “Kick me off the court again, boy!” Draymond Green got in on the fun by shouting, “Kick him off! Kick him off!”
The feeling around this Warriors team right now is almost like they just won a title. They were up against it, & they knew it. One of the best wins of their entire run. pic.twitter.com/z61lwq1BTB
There were more than a few heated moments during the series between Golden State and Houston, so perhaps Curry used whatever incident took place before Game 4 as motivation. Even if the situation did unfold the way the Rockets claim, Curry clearly held onto it.
We have seen plenty of chippy play in the Western Conference semifinal series between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, and the result in many of those situations has been technical fouls. Kevin Durant should consider himself lucky that he did not pick one up for a cheap shot on Chris Paul during Game 4 Monday night.
After he left his feet for a rebound on a shot that ended up going in, Durant appeared to look right at Paul and then swing his elbow in the direction of CP3’s face. It’s hard to tell if he actually made contact, but Paul grabbed his face and went down.
Many felt it was an acting job from Paul, who is certainly no stranger to flopping. Even if Durant did miss with the elbow, it looked like he knew exactly what he was doing with the way he looked at Paul first before throwing his left arm at him.
No foul was called, but the NBA could look at the play. Since the video doesn’t clearly show if Durant actually elbowed Paul or only tried to, it seems unlikely that he’ll face any disciplinary action over it.
Paul was lucky he wasn’t called for a technical foul for the sarcastic display. A few other players weren’t as lucky; Nene and Draymond Green were called for double techs after getting tangled up fighting under the basket after a free throw.