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“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said Sunday, per the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen. “I never demanded a trade. … I’ll be in Houston. I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”
Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill reported Tuesday that the relationship between Paul and Harden had become “unsalvageable”:
“Paul went to Rockets management and demanded a trade, and Harden issued a ‘him or me’ edict following the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors, sources said.
“The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey acted quickly to extinguish the drama:
Zach Lowe @ZachLowe_NBA
Just spoke to Daryl Morey. He reiterated there has been no trade demand from Chris Paul. “Tweet that I said that. Print it. Tweet it twice.” https://t.co/oo6ge0Wkop
On the Wednesday edition of First Take, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported he had spoken to Paul and that the nine-time All-Star “categorically denied” asking for a way out of Houston. Smith added Paul and Harden were on speaking terms.
Many noted how the Rockets were seemingly coming apart at the seams just as their championship window looked increasingly wide-open. Kevin Durant is likely going to miss the entire 2019-20 season after rupturing his Achilles, and Klay Thompson will be sidelined for most of the year because of a torn ACL.
The Western Conference hierarchy could change when the biggest dominoes fall in free agency. But at the moment, Houston looks like the favorite to win the West and reach the NBA Finals in 2020.
That would change if the Rockets trade Paul or he and Harden fail to coexist next year.
If Paul and Harden work out their issues, the focus would shift to how general manager Daryl Morey will upgrade the roster. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported the Rockets have Jimmy Butler on their wish list, but they’re currently $16.2 million over the salary cap for 2019-20.