After two years of looking like the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets are suddenly imploding.
According to Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill, the relationship between Chris Paul and James Harden is “unsalvageable,” and Paul wants out of Houston.
Goodwill reported on Tuesday that after the Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs, Paul requested a trade from the Rockets, and Harden issued a “him or me” edict.
According to Goodwill, Harden has not answered repeated attempts at communication from Paul this offseason.
Goodwill’s report follows a report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on Monday chronicling the Rockets’ internal issues, including a series of disagreements between Paul and Harden over playing style.
According to MacMahon, Paul bristled over the Rockets gearing their offense toward Harden’s isolations. Several reports have said that Harden and Paul had a tense verbal disagreement over the offense after Game 6 of the second round of the playoffs, when the Rockets were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors.
MacMahon reported that Paul frequently criticized Harden for not moving when he didn’t have the ball. MacMahon wrote that Harden “tends to avoid conflict but was pushed hard enough to snap back at Paul from time to time.”
According to MacMahon, the split was bad enough during the season that on occasions when Paul ran the offense with Harden on the bench, he would lobby Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni to keep Harden on the bench while Harden would press to get back into the game.
Shortly after Goodwill’s report was published, Paul took to Instagram to dispute it.
Numerous reports this offseason have indicated that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has shopped Paul in trades. Morey pushed back on those reports on Tuesday on “The Dan Patrick Show,” saying the Rockets were trying to acquire a third star rather than move Paul.
Finding a taker for Paul would be difficult, as he is owed nearly $125 million over the next three years. At 34 years old, Paul posted the worst field-goal percentage of his career last season and saw his efficiency drop in several other areas.
The fractured relationship between Harden and Paul adds to what is building up to be a tumultuous offseason for the Rockets. MacMahon reported that Rockets management and D’Antoni were also split earlier in the offseason on a new contract despite D’Antoni posting the best win percentage for a coach in Rockets history. The disagreements were never resolved, leaving D’Antoni to coach out the remainder of his contract this season while the Rockets replaced his assistant coaching staff.
With the Warriors’ future uncertain, there was a belief that a window had opened for the Rockets next season. However, Goodwill reported that there is a belief that the situation in Houston cannot be solved.