James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets’ best chance to get over the hump ended in massively disappointing fashion in a Game 6 loss to the Warriors. That elimination already felt like the last straw, but it might be worse than originally thought. Which leaves the future even more discouraging. Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting the star duo had “tense moments” throughout the game regarding ball distribution and there was “clash of styles brewing” with the team throughout the season.
“There was something of a clash of styles brewing throughout the Rockets season, with members of the team — most notably Paul — having spirited discussions with Mike D’Antoni about the offense and pushing for more movement, league sources told The Athletic. That type of fast-paced, ball-moving offense is what D’Antoni thrived with in Phoenix, and to the two-time Coach of the Year’s credit, he has adapted it in Houston to allow Harden to succeed in his game.
Charania added later:
“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.”
A ball distribution problem is not only worrisome going forward but also less than shocking. There is only one ball, and Paul and Harden both need it in their hands at a high rate to be effective. It was noticeable in both Games 5 and 6 this season there was a lack of communication on the floor between the two. This often left a “your turn, my turn” style that isn’t going to cut it in an era with the Golden State Warriors.
Thanks to their hefty contracts, Harden and Paul are stuck together in Houston for the next few years. Now, with a reported clash of personalities and play style issues, the Rockets’ next few seasons are beginning to look very bleak. And Paul getting older and possibly taking a backseat to Harden isn’t the solution by any means. Even at 34 and with a long history of injuries, Paul is the one the Rockets need as Batman in crunch time. Harden has proven time and time again he just isn’t the guy to take over in the biggest of moments late in the playoffs. The 2018 Western Conference Finals once Paul went down is the proper synopsis to sum this all up.
Sorry, Rockets fans, Mays might continue to just not be your month.