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.