James Harden and Chris Paul reportedly closed their season — another series defeat to the Golden State Warriors — with verbal sparring amid a disagreement over ball distribution, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Harden, Paul have ‘tense moments’ in Game 6
According to Charania, there was a “clash of styles brewing” in the Rockets organization throughout the season, with Paul looking for more ball movement. It seems to have bubbled over in the 118-113 home loss to the Warriors in Game 6.
But Harden and Paul had tense moments with one another throughout Game 6, culminating in a verbal back-and-forth postgame that went into the locker room, sources with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. Sources said the verbal exchange between Harden and Paul was regarding the ball distribution throughout Game 6. By the time the remainder of the locker room was ready to talk, Paul and Harden had gone their separate ways, with Paul swiftly making his way to the postgame podium. The Rockets dispensed with exit interviews this year, so the media hasn’t been able to ask Paul or Harden about the disappointment.
Harden and Paul combined for 62 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists in the loss. Harden had 35 points and Paul chipped in 27.
The Warriors have ended the Rockets season three of the past four years and that likely sparked a large portion of the frustration from each of the stars.
Rockets superstars came to win a title
There’s no guarantee the Warriors won’t be in the mix for another title this time next year, especially given that missing impending free agent Kevin Durant, who hasn’t played in weeks due to a calf injury, hasn’t been the dagger many thought. The Rockets will need to spend the offseason figuring out how best to win the title that has alluded them and the Warriors will still play into that.
Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni is reportedly in talks to extend his contract three more years. He runs a high-energy offense with plenty of ball movement, but restructured it to get the 29-year-old Harden isolated so he could put up 40-point nights. That’s been the core of the Rockets offense.
Paul, 34, was traded to the Rockets in 2017 in part because of Harden’s recruitment. At the time he called it an adjustment he was excited about, per ESPN, and the two stars would do anything, including making sacrifices, to win. He’s battled injuries for two seasons now and watched last year’s season-ending loss from the sideline due to a hamstring pull.
A source close to Paul told The Undefeated he believed Houston to be his “best chance to win now” and the ultimate “win now” of an NBA title hasn’t come to fruition.
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