The date is June 28th, 2017. The Los Angeles Clippers have just traded their franchise cornerstone, Chris Paul, to the Houston Rockets for Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected 1st round pick, and cash considerations. At first this looked like an absolutely great trade for the Clippers, but things change quickly around the NBA.
Back in 2017, once you glanced at this trade, nobody knew how it would pan out for either team. On paper it appeared as if the Clippers got very little talent in return for an all-star, but that is clearly not the case. Lou Williams was a consistent Sixth Man of the Year candidate, while Beverley and Harrell were both unproven players just looking for an opportunity. And even though the Rockets clearly gained the best player in the deal, there were many doubts about how Paul and James Harden would be able to coexist.
Through two full seasons playing side-by-side, and making it deep into the Western Conference playoffs, there still was something not right about their relationship on and off the basketball court. And this takes us to June 18th of the current year, when sources told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports that Chris Paul has requested a trade out of Houston.
— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) June 18, 2019
The 2017-18 Season
Through the first season that Chris Paul and James Harden were teammates, the Houston Rockets finished 1st in the Western Conference with a record of 65-17. Later that same season, the Rockets faced the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Houston lost this series in a hard-fought seven games. However, there was a lot of drama surrounding the Rockets throughout the season, which caused them to end their season in this disappointing way.
On October 17th, 2017, Chris Paul is playing his first official game with the Houston Rockets. In his first game dawning a Houston Rockets jersey, he was limited to only four pints due to soreness in his knee. This led him to miss the next 14 games. Then on January 3rd the same season, James Harden missed his first of seven straight games with a hamstring strain.
Throughout the rest of the regular season minor injuries would hold Paul and Harden out for 1-2 games at a time. But no injury was as serious as Chris Paul’s injury in the Western Conference Finals. In Game five, Chris Paul left the game with a hamstring injury. This caused the Rockets to lose game six and seven of the series.
Although injuries as inevitable in sports, they aren’t an excuse for Paul and Harden, the best two players on the team, to not gel on or off the court.
On January 15, Chris Paul visited the Staples Center for the first time since he was traded. This game was a little chippy. It contained two ejections and heated arguments between opposing players. After a 113-102 loss to the Clippers, reports broke that Paul had convinced three of his teammates to attempt to get to the Clippers locker room through secret doors and hallways! This wasn’t a good look only halfway through the season.
The 2018-19 Season
This past NBA season the Rockets took a little bit of a step backwards, finishing 3rd in the Western Conference and being eliminated in the semifinals. This was the season where all problems surrounding the Rockets were made public, and it clearly showed that the duo of Chris Paul and James Harden wasn’t working out.
Even More Injuries
After starting the season a mediocre 16-15, on December 20th, Chris Paul suffered a strained hamstring. This caused Paul to miss 17 straight games. If it didn’t look bad to just be barely over .500 before his injury, the Rockets went on to win 12 out of 17 games without Paul.
Chris Paul, for the second year in a row, only played 58 games. That is the second lowest amount of games he’s played in his career.
On October 21, the Houston Rockets matched up with the Los Angeles Lakers for some early season basketball. Little did we know that late in the fourth quarter, Brandon Ingram would push James Harden after a foul. After this altercation, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo would get into a heated argument which resulted in punches being thrown!
After the game Rondo spoke to the press about what occurred on the court. This is Rondo’s response to a question that asked him about the assumption that he spit on Chris Paul:
“Of course, the NBA went with his side because I got three games and he got two. . . Everyone wants to believe Chris Paul is a good guy. He’s a horrible teammate. They don’t know how he treats people.”
Former NBA players that have played with Rondo and Paul have since agreed with Rondo’s statement. Glen Davis stated “I played with both of them. CP3 is a very bad teammate.” Ryan Hollins posted a picture of him and Rondo which stated “Hands down one of my favorite teammates EVER.”
The Trade Situation
Back in the 2018 offseason, the Houston Rockets signed Chris Paul to a four-year $160M max contract. This meant that the Rockets intended on keeping Paul in the future. But on June 18th, a report was made public that said Chris Paul has requested a trade from the Rockets and that his relationship with Harden was “unsalvageable.” As time went on, and the internet was starting to calm down, more reports broke that Harden has told the front office to pick one of the two, and that Paul and Harden didn’t communicate for months through the season. Chris Paul reacted to these reports by commenting “Damn! That’s news to me…”
Clearly this situation has gotten out of hand and Chris Paul will either have to really try to fix his relationship with Harden, or will be traded. Houston’s general manager has already stated that Paul will start next year on the team, but this relationship may have already suffered too much damage. Paul’s tenure in Houston was filled with drama and injuries, and may be ending very soon.
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