Although it lasted just two seasons, the Houston Rockets’ pairing of Chris Paul and James Harden had many peaks and valleys. However, the two had become disjointed near the end of their short tenure together, which led to the team deciding to move Paul in a blockbuster trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. In the months that have followed the move, there hasn’t been much chatter around their relationship. Paul has given some insight into where things stand between the two All-Star guards.
Rockets move Chris Paul to Thunder
The initial hope around the Rockets when they acquired Paul in a trade from the L.A. Clippers was that he could be the missing piece to the franchise.
Houston had struggled to get over the hump in the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors, which bringing in another premiere guard could provide the team with even more offensive firepower. The Rockets worked through the early kinks, which led to them becoming the lone team that looked to truly test the Warriors throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
That had led to them nearly upending them in the Western Conference Finals in 2018 that saw Houston take 3-2 series lead, but failed to close out the series. Much of that has laid with Paul suffering a hamstring injury near the end of Game 5, which put them at a significant disadvantage while the 27 straight missed 3-pointers in Game 7 was the nail in the coffin.
Houston had their opportunity to avenge that loss the playoffs this year but fell short against Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals. Things began to truly unravel during the offseason regarding disgruntlement between Paul and Harden. Not much longer after that, the Rockets executed the trade with the Thunder.
Chris Paul’s Standing with James Harden
During their tenure together, Paul and Harden experienced plenty of success, but there was an underlying strain in their relationship that developed.
Since that initial report came out during the offseason, the two have downplayed that being the case between them. Their words may say one thing, but their actions show another, as Paul recently revealed to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he hadn’t spoken much to Harden since being traded.
It is no secret that Paul and Harden did not see eye to eye last season. Sources said the two feuded when the Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. Paul acknowledged that he and Harden “haven’t really talked” since he was traded.
“It’s life. It happens. It is what it is. But I wish him nothing but the best,” Paul said.
The 34-year-old is clearly taking a business approach to the matter, given that the two are no longer teammates. There are brotherhoods and strong relationships between players on opposing teams off the court, but Paul doesn’t appear to share that type of bond with Harden in any fashion.
What lies ahead for Chris Paul and James Harden
The trade to the Thunder has put Paul in an interesting situation as he’s playing for a team that is in rebuilding mode. Oklahoma City has been competitive, but they are far from being a championship-contending team.
Paul is in a tight spot where he’s locked into a long-term commitment in the second year of his four-year, $159.7 million contract. It’s likely one that he opts into the fourth year that is worth $44.2 million as he will likely not receive anywhere near that base salary at age 36. On top of that, Paul may have to wait until the trade deadline before there is a realistic chance he gets moved.
Meanwhile, Harden has continued to take his game to the next level offensively, putting forth a career-best campaign currently leading the league with 39.5 points per contest. Westbrook has had his struggles, but his presence adds another intriguing dynamic to the Rockets’ offensive scheme that they hope helps that compete for an NBA title.
Ultimately, it was a situation in Houston that ran its course, with both getting the most out of it during that brief two-year window.