Earlier this week, yet another blockbuster trade took place in the NBA offseason, as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder swapped point guards in a deal that will send Chris Paul to the Thunder and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets. Much like how this transaction took place shortly after rumors started hinting that Westbrook may be the next Thunder superstar after Paul George to be traded, the deal also came on the heels of reports hinting at friction between Paul and his erstwhile Rockets backcourt partner, James Harden.
In a report published on Friday, Yahoo Sports‘ Vincent Goodwill explained why the upcoming backcourt partnership between Harden and Westbrook could turn out to be a “match made of desperation,” despite their past history as friends and teammates in Oklahoma City. He also cited an unidentified league source, who revealed why they believe the Rockets and the Thunder went ahead with the aforementioned trade, even if it might not “make the most basketball sense” for Houston.
“James made this [expletive] happen,” the source was quoted as saying. “He wanted Chris up out of there.”
As noted by Sports Illustrated, Goodwill was the same Yahoo Sports reporter who wrote in June that the alleged tension between Harden and Paul had escalated to the point that they were no longer willing to remain teammates for the coming 2019-20 season.
The report claimed that Paul asked Rockets management for a trade, while Harden was so upset after Houston’s Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Golden State Warriors in this year’s playoffs that he issued a “him or me” ultimatum to team officials.
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) July 12, 2019
A few days after the above report was published, Paul took to Instagram to deny the rumors, quipping that Goodwill’s revelations were “news to [him].” Similarly, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to douse cold water on the reports hinting at Paul’s trade demands, insisting that the 34-year-old star didn’t request to be moved. Morey also maintained, at the time, that he had no plans of entertaining any offers from rival teams interested in trading for the former All-NBA point guard.
While the duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook could mesh well off the court due to their long-running friendship, Goodwill cautioned in his newer report that there are concerns regarding whether the two would be able to coexist on the court.
Furthermore, he opined that Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni may have to sell Westbrook on the idea of “[taking] a back seat” to Harden, which could be a difficult task given his past reputation as a headstrong player in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, rumors have recently suggested that Chris Paul might not be long for the Thunder once the trade with the Rockets becomes official. The Miami Heat have frequently been brought up as a team that could trade for Paul, but a recent tweet from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hinted that there is no “aggressive pursuit” on the Heat’s part for the nine-time All-Star at the moment.