Prior to the trade, there were rumblings about some discontent between Paul and James Harden. According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Harden orchestrated Paul being traded and wanted him “up out of there.”
“James made this [expletive] happen,” a league source told Yahoo Sports. “He wanted Chris up out of there.”
While it’s not surprising that Harden wanted Paul out of Houston, it’s also not that alarming that Harden wanted to reunite with Westbrook after the duo played together in Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2012. In two of their three seasons together, Harden and Westbrook went to the Western Conference Finals and even advanced to the NBA Finals in 2012 before eventually losing to the Miami Heat.
The transition from Paul to Westbrook should be an interesting one considering how much of a dominant ball-handler Harden has become in recent years. Westbrook is not a player that fares much better off the ball because he’s not a very strong perimeter shooter.
With Paul on the move, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta weighed in on the acquisition of Westbrook shortly after news of the trade broke while also heaping some praise on Paul for his time in Houston.
“We’re excited to have Russell Westbrook,” Fertitta said. “I would watch him play for Oklahoma City and he’s so athletic. At the same time, this franchise just had the two years with the most wins it’s ever had in consecutive years and we wouldn’t have accomplished that without Chris Paul. Chris Paul is unbelievable and he’s gonna be sadly missed.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how Harden and Westbrook play together at this stage of their careers, but it’s certainly clear that Harden wanted Paul out and that led to his old running mate bring brought in.