Report: James Harden Was Behind Rockets Trading Chris Paul to Thunder

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 12, 2019

Houston Rockets guard James Harden, center, shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Huestis (34) and guard Russell Westbrook (0) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Houston Rockets guard James Harden reportedly orchestrated the trade that sent Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook.

That's per Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill, who relayed the following quote from a league source: "James made this [expletive] happen. He wanted Chris up out of there."

However, ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported that the "tension" between the two was not a factor in the deal.

"The tension between James Harden and Chris Paul, which Rockets considered manageable and not unusual for NBA alpha dogs, didn't factor into decision to make the trade for Russell Westbrook," MacMahon tweeted. "Source: 'That would not have driven us to do something we otherwise wouldn't have done.'"

Goodwill wrote on June 18 that Harden and Paul's relationship had soured to the point where it became "unsalvageable," per a source.

"There's no respect at all, on either side,the source said to Goodwill. "They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn't respect James' standing in the league, and James doesn't respect the work Chris has put in to this point."

Harden now reunites with his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate in Westbrook. The two shared the floor from 2009-12 and made the 2011 NBA Finals.

The Rockets now have the best offensive backcourt in the Association, with no close second. Westbrook, who won the NBA MVP and scoring title (31.6 PPG) during his 2016-17 season, joins a 2017-18 NBA MVP in Harden, who posted a league-high 36.1 points last season.

Houston also rose to fourth on the Caesars Palace NBA championship odds ledger at 15-2, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, going through the Western Conference should be a gauntlet: Seven West teams are in the top 10 of the odds list at 25-1 or better. And teams will be hard-pressed to spoil a potential Los Angeles battle in the West Finals.

As for the Thunder and Paul, CP3 may never suit up in an OKC uniform. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski threw out the idea of Oklahoma City potentially dealing Paul and some of its first-round picks to the Miami Heat, who just acquired ex-Philadelphia 76ers wing and four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler.

Regardless of how Harden and Paul's time together ended, they still enjoyed tremendous success on the court. Under their leadership, Houston averaged 57.3 wins per season from 2016-17 to 2018-19, reaching the Western Conference Semifinals all three seasons.

A 65-17 record in 2017-18 was the league's best, but the Rockets fell just short of the championship round, losing to the Golden State Warriors 4-3 in the West Finals. Paul missed the last two games of that series with a hamstring injury.

The Rockets went 41-41 the season before Paul's arrival via a trade, so his Houston tenure was still a positive even though it ended without a title.


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