It’s been a hellacious two-year run for Chris Paul since being traded away from the Houston Rockets because of behind-the-scenes tension between CP3 and James Harden.
During the 2019-20 season, Paul led an OKC Thunder team that had no business being in the postseason to a Game 7 in round one against the same Rockets team that traded him for Russell Westbrook a year earlier. Last season Paul was dealt yet again, leaving OKC for the Phoenix Suns. This season must be the highlight of CP3s career, as he finally made his first NBA Finals appearance, helping the Suns take the Milwaukee Bucks to six games before falling to the Bucks and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Paul sat down recently with former All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas on his No Chill with Gilbert Arenas show. During their conversation, Paul’s tenure in Houston was a topic of discussion, and CP3 kept it real on how things ended with the Rockets.
“You have to be able to have them conversations,” Paul said. “And the thing that frustrated me the most was that first year, I wasn’t healthy. It’s crazy. Them years in Houston are kinda a blur, to a certain extent, because there was so much going on at the time. But dang, we was good. We was real good.”
“And James, I still say it, can’t nobody score the ball like he can. It’s crazy, man…I wouldn’t trade any experience or whatnot, but I wish we would’ve had some of those conversations. But most of all, I wish I would’ve been able to stay healthy.”
Paul is correct. That Rockets team was good. Not good enough to beat the Golden State Warriors with a 3-2 lead in the conference finals, but yes, they were damn good. The more interesting points made by Paul are about his health and the conversations he wished he’d had with Harden during this time.
It was widely reported and well-known at the time that Paul and Harden weren’t exactly the best of friends on or off the court. Being friends isn’t a requirement, but having those two together can help a team more than it hurts. Looking at the Bucks championship team, it’s easy to see that these guys enjoy playing together. Now there isn’t another star player in Milwaukee to push Giannis for his spot, but the chemistry the Bucks have developed helped take them all the way to a world championship.
In Houston, Paul and Harden just never seemed to click personality-wise. On the court, they produced magic and, had they not run into one of the greatest teams the NBA has ever seen, we might not be talking about these players still looking for their first championship ring at this point.
The health of Paul was another obstacle in Houston, and NBA fans know his injury history all too well, especially when it comes to the postseason. It seems like CP3 always reaggravates some prior injury at the most inopportune time. Which is usually in the postseason. During the same Western Conference Finals series against the Warriors, Paul hurt his hamstring in Game 5, which cost him the remainder of the series. The Rockets then went on to be eliminated in seven games by the Warriors.
Knowing Paul’s history of nagging injuries, coupled with his strained relationship with Harden, it’s clear to see why CP3 has regrets about the way his time ended in Houston. Although CP3 has a history of finding himself on the bad side of his co-star (i.e. Blake Griffin), it sounds like were he able to go back in time, Paul might handle the situation with Harden a bit differently.