The Houston Rockets will see a familiar face when the NBA playoffs begin as they square off with Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul admitted the teams “know a lot about each other” as the point guard gave his first public reaction to the upcoming playoff series.
“It’ll be interesting,” Paul admitted to The Athletic’s Erik Horne. “Two teams that know a lot about each other. We’ll prepare, get ready and we’ll see what’s what’s.”
Last offseason, which seems like many years ago, the Rockets traded Paul as part of a deal for Russell Westbrook. The Rockets and Thunder have not squared off since arriving at the NBA bubble in Orlando. The two teams last played this season on January 20 and Paul notched 28 points, eight rebounds and three steals in the Thunder’s 112-107 win over the Rockets.
Harden Denied There Is Tension in His Relationship With Paul
There were plenty of rumors that Paul’s relationship with Harden caused the Rockets to trade the point guard. Harden has denied there was a strain in their relationship.
“Obviously as teammates, as competitors, we argued on the court. … The negative media stuff, it wasn’t true. … Me and Chris had constant communication,” Harden explained to Houston Chronicle’s Brian Smith.
Both players have taken the high road on their relationship, but there were indications prior to last summer’s blockbuster trade that the two stars were not on the best of terms. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported in June 2019 that Paul had serious questions about Harden’s game.
“Chris wants to coach James,” says a source familiar with the stars’ dynamic. “James looks at him like, ‘You can’t even beat your man. Just shut up and watch me.'”
According to sources, Paul was also frustrated by what he perceived as Harden’s tendency to ignore unglamorous details that impact winning — such as moving when he gives up the ball to help spacing — and wasn’t shy about expressing those concerns.
Less than a month after MacMahon’s report, the Rockets traded Paul to the Thunder. While Harden downplayed the drama, all indications are the All-Star has a much better relationship with Westbrook, who the Rockets are hoping can return for the playoffs.
Westbrook’s Status Is Up in the Air for the Playoffs
The Rockets are dealing with a bit of a scare as Westbrook is battling a quad injury. Fox 26’s Mark Berman reported the Rockets will rest Westbrook on Friday and re-evaluate his status prior to the start of the playoffs.
“We’ll re-evaluate (quad)in a couple of days,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni explained, per Fox 26. “He’s not gonna play Friday-I don’t think he aggravated it. During the game & after the game he was fine.Woke up the next day he was kind of sore. They’re checking it out & making sure it can respond to treatment”
Familiarity aside, the Thunder-Rockets series is also intriguing given the way both teams have played since the NBA restart at Disney. Both teams are playing their best basketball heading into the postseason creating a very difficult matchup for the Rockets.