Despite coming up short for the second straight season, the Houston Rockets are intent on returning next season for another championship run with largely the same roster.
While the superstar backcourt tandem of Chris Paul and James Harden has proven to be one of the best in the league, playoff success remains evasive. In fact, the two may have even struggled with their own relationship this last postseason. According to Athletic’s Shams Charania, Harden and Paul’s differences peaked following their season-ending Game 6 loss, leading to a ‘heated exchange’ between the two.
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.
This is troublesome for a team that has come up short of their goal two seasons in a row now. Like the rest of the West, the Golden State Warriors remain the hump they fail to get over and this lack of chemistry won’t help matters going forward.
A lot of the Rockets’ disconnect was visible on the court as well. Houston’s offense stagnated often down the stretch and this would ultimately be their downfall against a well-oiled Golden State attack.
If the Rockets hope to break through and finally take the West one of these years, this internal discord can’t be present. Harden is an MVP-caliber talent and Chris Paul is an all-time great but it takes much more to win in today’s league than just sheer talent.