HOUSTON – The Rockets are fresh off of a disappointing playoff run that saw them bow out in the second round to the Golden State Warriors. Since then, they have remained in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
First, it was and continues to be the contract extension talks with Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. Talks ended and led to a quick trip to West Virginia by owner Tilman Fertitta and GM Daryl Morey to make sure there are no hard feelings and patch things up.
Both sides want the deal to get done, and it is leaning toward that direction.
What the National Reports are saying about Paul and Harden?
In the past 48 hours, the chatter by the national scribes and some talking heads has centered on the relationship between Chris Paul and James Harden.
An ESPN report came out which was basically playing catch up to what Fertitta and Morey had already addressed with a few of us in the local media two weeks ago, and that was followed by a Tuesday report from Yahoo Sports describing the Paul-Harden friendship and on-court partnership in a negative tone.
The Yahoo story said their relationship was “unsalvageable” and the players “want a divorce.” The story also said that Paul has gone to Rockets management asking for a trade while Harden reportedly gave an “it’s either him or me” comment to the organization.
Lastly, in the Yahoo story, it was described that both Paul and Harden went “nearly two months” without speaking to each other. All of these comments by Yahoo appear to be not true.
What the Rockets are saying about these stories
Once the Yahoo report came out Tuesday, Chris Paul responded via a Bleacher Report Instagram post saying, “It’s news to me,” referencing the relationship issues with Harden. General manager Daryl Morey also then followed Paul’s post by saying, “It’s news to me too.”
Morey also appeared on Sportstalk 790 and was asked about the issues of growing tension between his two stars.
“(Chris Paul) doesn’t want to be traded. It’s been odd to me,” said Morey on the "Sean Salisbury Show" on 790.
“They are two high-level competitors. They’ll have tension on the bench and that’s normal. It was magnified in Game 6 with that loss to the Warriors so maybe that’s where it came from. It’s really surprising to see all the noise about that.”
Morey also added on the "Dan Patrick Show" Tuesday that while he is seeking all options to improve the roster, that Harden and Paul are untouchable. He told Houston Chronicle beat reporter Jonathan Feigen that Paul and his reps have never asked for a trade and Morey said that Paul would be with the Rockets next season. Morey also added that Paul and Harden do not have issues with one another. In fact, Morey says he has spoken to both this offseason about team evaluations and plans moving forward as Free Agency begins early in July.
So for now, the Rockets have some issues to clean up this offseason. It starts with getting an agreement in place and making a fair offer to Mike D’Antoni.
It's time to get back to the table, over a meal on Fertitta’s dime along with a few beverages and get this knocked out. D’Antoni deserves better treatment for what he’s done since arriving in Houston.
As for Paul and Harden, if there are some issues behind the scenes, it’s time for those two to clear the air and focus on this new season. One that the Rockets, as they are built now, have a chance to be a strong contender in the West and make one more run at a title.
The clock is ticking.