Russell Westbrook's pending arrival to the Houston Rockets reportedly has everything to do with Westbrook's desire to reunite with James Harden and nothing to do with alleged tension between Harden and Chris Paul.
ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported Thursday night that a source disclosed to him the rift between Harden and Paul was considered "manageable" and "didn't factor into the decision to make the trade for Russell Westbrook."
"That would not have driven us to do something we otherwise wouldn't have done," the anonymous source added to MacMahon.
Earlier Thursday evening, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets traded Paul, along with 2024 and 2026 first-round picks and pick swaps for 2021 and 2025, to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Westbrook.
Back on June 18, Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill reported that Harden and Paul wanted a divorce as their relationship had entered "unsalvageable" territory. However, Paul denied the report:
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey also disputed any rumors of tumult by denying to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen that Paul had requested a trade, adding that the 34-year-old point guard "will be on the Rockets next season."
Whatever Harden and Paul's dynamic actually was is irrelevant now as Westbrook will be Harden's running mate once more.
Harden and Westbrook had begun trying to orchestrate a trade once Paul George was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers over the weekend, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
The two All-Stars previously played together from 2009 to 2012 in Oklahoma City, reaching the NBA Finals in 2012 but losing in five games to the Miami Heat. Come October of that year, Harden was traded to the Rockets.
Paul arrived in Houston in 2017. Together with Harden in the two seasons since, he and the Rockets have made it to the Western Conference Finals (2017-18) and conference semifinals (2018-19) before the Golden State Warriors ended both seasons.
With Westbrook in town, the pressure on Harden and the Rockets as a whole to take the next step will only be heightened.