For the second consecutive year, the Houston Rockets’ season ended unceremoniously at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. It’s hard to say which one was worse. Though Houston now infamously blew Game 7 last year while missing 27 consecutive three-pointers, this year they fell at home to a Warriors team without Kevin Durant, in a game where Stephen Curry didn’t score a single point in the first half.
It’s easy to see how such a loss could cause some frustration to boil over. Apparently, that’s exactly what happened between Chris Paul and James Harden via report in The Athletic:
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.
But this incident didn’t happen in a vacuum. The Rockets dealt with internal strife all season as different factions of the locker room disagreed on how the team should play.
There was something of a clash of styles brewing throughout the Rockets season, with members of the team — most notably Paul — having spirited discussions with Mike D’Antoni about the offense and pushing for more movement, league sources told The Athletic. That type of fast-paced, ball-moving offense is what D’Antoni thrived with in Phoenix, and to the two-time Coach of the Year’s credit, he has adapted it in Houston to allow Harden to succeed in his game.
D’Antoni found success with a fast-paced, heavy on ball movement style that he utilized during his years in Phoenix. That style has been tweaked in Houston after the acquisition of James Harden, one of the most unstoppable isolation players of his generation.
It’s hard to argue the iso-heavy style hasn’t been successful, but it also runs counter to Paul’s strengths as a pass-first point guard suited a more traditional offense. The Rockets’ ran the most isolation plays in the league by far (20.4 percent), and finished 29th in passes per game (246).
How the Rockets will rectify this next season is anybody’s guess, considering both Harden and Paul are under contract for the foreseeable future.