James Harden, Chris Paul had verbal exchange after elimination
The Houston Rockets’ season ended in disappointment a few weeks ago with a humbling loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals. There now comes word that tensions brewing between James Harden and Chris Paul came to a head as the team’s quest for an appearance in the NBA Finals was extinguished by the Warriors.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania details in a recent piece how Harden and Paul had a heated verbal exchange following the team’s postseason-ending Game 6 loss.
“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,” Charania writes. “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.”
It would be reasonable to suggest that the frustration over getting bounced out of the playoffs yet again by the Warriors may have been the impetus for Harden and Paul butting heads. However, it sounds like the verbal confrontation may have stemmed from a long-simmering tension between the two players.
Charania notes how Paul had “spirited discussions” with head coach Mike D’Antoni throughout the season during which the Rockets star pushed for “more movement” in the offense.
Much has been made this season of Harden’s iso-version of “Hero Ball,” and the star himself was said to be frustrated over how his style of play has become the target of criticism. It stands to reason Harden’s ball-dominant style irked Paul, who presumably would prefer to have the ball in his hands more often.
All that said, the Rockets have an entire offseason to tinker with the offense and get everybody back on the same page. The team will again be considered contenders next season, and the assumption is Paul and Harden will iron out their differences with D’Antoni serving as a go-between.