Chris Paul Gets Brutally Honest About James Harden
Chris Paul sat down for a far-reaching interview ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s NBA Playoffs showdown between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. One of the topics he delved into was his relationship with former teammate James Harden.
According to Paul, there isn’t much of a connection there any more.
“He’s not going to hit me [up] to tell my daughter ‘Happy birthday’ today,” Paul acknowledged.
“We don’t talk or communicate or nothing like that, but that’s all good and well. I wish him the best in anything and everything he does. That’s one thing I think people fail to realize, sometimes, in these situations. Sometimes you have teammates, and it is for that period of time. But that’s okay.
“You can wish each other well going forward. It doesn’t mean you have to be kumbaya, and it doesn’t mean you have to be enemies. At the end of the day, everybody’s got a life to live.”
Chris Paul very candid on where his relationship stands with James Harden leading up to the Thunder meeting the Rockets tonight on @NBAonTNT: “He’s not going to hit me to tell my daughter Happy Birthday today.” pic.twitter.com/MOalfyjDRE
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 18, 2020
Chris Paul, James Harden Formed A Great Duo In Houston
The Los Angeles Clippers traded Paul to Houston back in 2017 for Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer, a future first rounder, and cash.
The move was viewed as the official dismantling of the Lob City Clippers and something of a peculiar decision by the Rockets, since both Harden and Paul need the ball in their hands to be successful.
Interestingly enough, Harden and Paul initially proved the doubters wrong by meshing very well together.
Commandeered by two offensive geniuses implementing head coach Mike D’Antoni’s gameplan to perfection, the Rockets took the Golden State Warriors to the brink in the 2017-18 Western Conference Finals.
At one point, Houston was up 3-2 over the Warriors and looked NBA Finals-bound. Unfortunately, Paul suffered a hamstring injury that would force him out of Games 6 and 7. Golden State ultimately came back and defeated the Rockets.
Harden and Paul made it back to the playoffs the following year, but history ended up repeating itself. The Warriors ended the Rockets’ season in the second round – throwing into question whether the pair could ever truly win a championship together.
Shortly after the season ended, reports of friction between Harden and Paul began to emerge. The latter is known as a very difficult personality to deal with, and the former viewed himself as a legitimate star in the league. Stars don’t like being talked down to – not even by future Hall of Famers.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to keep a lid on rumors of unrest between his stars, but at that point the cat was out of the bag. Houston brass would have to pick a side, and it was clear that the organization would hitch its wagon to the younger, better player.
Surely enough during the offseason Paul, two future first rounders and two future first round pick swaps were shipped to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook.
Chris Paul Has Thrived In OKC
The assumption was that the Thunder would seek out a trade partner who would be interested in sending some young assets over for Paul. The Miami Heat were mentioned as a potential destination. But that never happened.
Instead, Paul stuck with Oklahoma City and put together one of his most impressive performances in years. Under his leadership, a very young Thunder squad locked down the No. 5 seed in a stacked Western Conference and secured a showdown with the Rockets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
That showdown is why the history between Harden and Paul is being re-litigated and discussed this week.
Regardless of who ultimately emerges victorious from this year’s Rockets vs Thunder series, it’ll be tough to watch it and not wonder “what if” as it pertains to Harden and Paul.
They came within one injury of the NBA Finals two years ago. If they had actually gotten a crack at the Cleveland Cavaliers that year, they like would’ve have won. And if they had won, it’s interesting to think about what the pair’s relationship would look like today.