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Chris Paul, James Harden rift wasn’t a factor in Russell Westbrook Rockets, Thunder trade

Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, Rockets, Thunder

A recent report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon claims the tension between James Harden and Chris Paul — which the Houston Rockets considered manageable and not unusual for alpha dogs of their kind — did not factor into the decision to deal for Russell Westbrook.

“That would not have driven us to do something we otherwise wouldn’t have done,” said a source with knowledge of the front office’s thinking.

Paul’s contract was by far the easiest that could equate to Westbrook, as the $38.5 million he will make this 2019-20 season is an exact match to what Westbrook will receive for this upcoming campaign. The Rockets were forced to also stiffly compensate the Oklahoma City Thunder with first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.

Paul and Harden’s tiff didn’t see the light until after their postseason exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, where Paul’s desire to play a more free-flowing offense without the isolations drove him to visible arguments with Harden and confronting head coach Mike D’Antoni in hopes of a change of direction.

The dime maestro never got his way, as D’Antoni and the Rockets continued to run the offense centered on Harden, only putting it in Paul’s hands in unique situations when Harden left the floor.

Their lack of chemistry was especially obvious in 2018-19, thought it’s yet to be seen if this same vision fails yet again, now that they’ve acquired another ball-dominant point guard to pair with their franchise shooting guard.