James Harden has had enough.
The Rockets star hit back at reports that he and Chris Paul had a rift and that their relationship was “unsalvageable.”
“It was a lot of false talk,” Harden told reporters Saturday. “Obviously as teammates, as competitors, you argue on the court. You have your (disagreements) on the court, your arguments on the court, but that’s just part of basketball. I think everybody has that no matter what level of basketball you’re in. But all the negative media stuff and all the stuff that was going on and running, it wasn’t true. Me and Chris had constant communication, and we were good.”
Paul first shot back at a Yahoo Sports report last month, writing on Instagram, “Damn, that’s news to me.”
In Paul’s first season with Houston, the top-seeded Rockets made it to the 2017-18 Western Conference finals, when they held a 3-2 series lead over the Warriors. But Paul injured his hamstring in Game 5 and missed the final two games of the series, both of which Golden State won. After the season, Paul signed a four-year, $160 million max contract with Houston.
The Rockets again ran into the Warriors in this year’s playoffs, losing 4-2 in the second round. But no matter how much the two might have revealed their frustrations on the court, Harden insists there was never any damage done to his relationship with Paul.
“It wasn’t upsetting for me because I knew the truth. We knew the truth. So it wasn’t upsetting at all,” Harden said. “It was pretty funny how guys can speculate or just make up false stories on the TV, and then you’ve got millions of people believing it. So that’s where guys have to make sure their facts are true before they run stuff in the media or on national television. But for me personally, and I’m sure for Chris as well, we didn’t pay any attention to it. And Chris has been unbelievable these last two years. He’s helped me as a leader, as a mentor, all that good stuff.
“I guess it’s life, just the business, how things don’t work out. He’s a great dude. I have nothing negative to say about him.”
GM Daryl Morey, desperate to find the right winning formula in what is now a revamped Western Conference, traded Paul to the Thunder for Harden’s former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook. Harden, the 2017-18 NBA MVP, hopes the new-look Rockets can finally get over the hump.
“Obviously I’ve been coming up short these last few years and whatnot, or since I’ve been in the league,” Harden said. “But I won’t stop. I won’t stop until I reach my goals and our team reaches our goal. It’s a journey. It’s a marathon. And I’m still learning.”
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