After two years of playing together on the Houston Rockets, James Harden and Chris Paul parted ways in the 2019 NBA offseason. With an opportunity to add a younger, MVP-caliber point guard, the Rockets decided to send Paul together with multiple future draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. However, though Harden backed the move to bring Westbrook to Houston, it didn’t mean that he longer wanted to be teammates with CP3.
This was revealed by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in his recent interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Morey, during the trade negotiation between the Rockets and the Thunder, Harden asked him if there was a way where they could acquire Westbrook without including Paul in the trade package.
“He was curious if there was a way to do it where we could keep everyone and not have to give up anything [laughs],” Morey said, as quoted by USA Today‘s Rockets Wire. “Unfortunately, the math of the deal required Chris going out. His mind is always [going] first to ‘How [can we be] completely stacked?’ So I had to sort of explain. He gets it roughly, but obviously he leaves the details to us. Besides the high level [talks] where he thought that Russ would be a great fit here, there’s not a ton of interaction after that point.”
As much as Morey wanted to grant Harden’s request, there was no way that he could do it since during that time, they were already above the NBA’s salary cap. Aside from Harden, who was obviously considered as untouchable in any deal, the only player in the Rockets’ roster that could match Westbrook’s massive salary was Paul.
Still, it’s definitely interesting to know that James Harden was still hoping to have Chris Paul back despite how they went through plenty of ups and downs in their two years of playing together. The Rockets would undeniably love to have three All-Star-caliber players on their roster, but they would have to make certain adjustments in order to maximize the effectiveness of all three backcourt stars on the court together. Aside from learning to play off the ball, one of Harden, Westbrook, and Paul would likely be forced to play in the wing.
Luckily for Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, he doesn’t have to find a solution for such a problem. As of now, D’Antoni is focused on getting the best out of the tandem of Harden and Westbrook. On Monday night, Harden, Westbrook, and the Rockets faced Paul and the Thunder for the first time in the 2019-20 NBA season, walking away with a 116-112 victory.