With Chris Paul now officially a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook likewise confirmed as a Houston Rocket, things could potentially be a lot different for Rockets superstar James Harden in the 2019-20 NBA season. It’s still far too early to tell which of the two teams would emerge as the winner of the aforementioned blockbuster point guard swap, but reports of the trade first emerged earlier this month amid rumors that Paul and Harden’s relationship as backcourt partners had significantly deteriorated since Houston was eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
After remaining silent about the rumors for several weeks, Harden finally opened up about the reports, as noted by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle in a tweet he shared over the weekend, which included a video interview with the 29-year-old shooting guard. Speaking to reporters in the 30-second clip, Harden acknowledged that he and Paul “argued on the court” like teammates often would and debunked the rumors that had hinted at a fallout with his now-former teammate.
“There was a lot of false talk,” Harden continued, as quoted by USA Today‘s Rockets Wire. “The negative media stuff and all that stuff that was going on and running, it wasn’t true. Me and Chris had constant communication and we’re good.”
Harden’s comments to reporters about the situation with Paul came slightly more than a week after Yahoo Sports‘ Vincent Goodwill wrote that a source claimed Harden wanted Paul out of Houston, and that he helped convince Rockets management to trade the nine-time All-Star point guard. However, Bleacher Report cited ESPN‘s Tim MacMahon, who soon clarified that the “tension” between the two backcourt stars was “manageable” and “not unusual for NBA alpha dogs,” thus making it a non-factor in the Rockets’ decision to trade for Russell Westbrook.
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) July 20, 2019
Analyzing Harden’s recent remarks about his supposed issues with Paul, Rockets Wire speculated on Monday that the truth behind the alleged feud might be “somewhere in the middle.” The publication noted that Paul has a reputation of “rubbing teammates the wrong way,” but added that the negative reports Harden complained about may have blown things out of proportion, and made it appear as if both players really couldn’t stand each other.
As for Houston’s prospects in the 2019-20 season with Harden playing alongside Westbrook, Rockets Wire added that fans can expect the dynamic to be different, even as it remains unclear whether the two former Thunder teammates will get along as well as they did during their younger days in Oklahoma City.