When Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2017, a lot of NBA observers questioned how he and James Harden, the team’s star, would coexist in the offense. Both players, after all, are known for being ball-dominant and needing their team’s offense to run through them.
This hasn’t been much of an issue for the team in the players’ first two seasons together, and Paul even signed an extension with the team last year. Paul has also been injured for a couple of stretches, leaving Harden as the main offensive playmaker. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense has found a way to give both players touches on most occasions.
But now, following the Rockets’ loss in the second round of the playoffs to the Golden State Warriors, there’s a new report that the two stars had an argument about the team’s offense, with Harden preferring to play isolation ball.
Per The Athletic, there was “something of a clash of styles brewing throughout the Rockets season,” with Paul and other players asking for more ball movement, while Harden often took the ball to the basket himself. The clash culminated in some “tense moments” between Harden and Paul during Game 6 of the Golden State series, including a “verbal exchange” after the game.
The story looked at what the Rockets can do going forward. They have little cap flexibility, and both Harden and Paul signed for years in the future. However, they may have a further opening to challenge Golden State, especially if Kevin Durant leaves the team, as expected.
The Rockets this season posted a record of 53-29, which was good for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, but was only four games behind the Warriors, who had the best.
“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”
A lot of ???? to dissect
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) May 23, 2019
Harden led the team with 31.6 points per game, with Eric Gordon second, and Paul third, with 17. Harden also led the team in assists, with 6.6 per game.
Harden has been with the Rockets since he was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, after the Thunder determined that they couldn’t afford to keep Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He was named league most valuable player in 2018.
Paul was traded to the Rockets in 2017 from the Los Angeles Clippers, where he had been a key part of the “Lob City” era. Before the Clippers, Paul played the first few years of his career with the team that was then known as the New Orleans Hornets.