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Rumor: Issues between Rockets’ James Harden, Chris Paul stem from differences in preferred playing style, personality

Chris Paul, James Harden, Rockets

The disconnect between Chris Paul and James Harden has been some deep-rooted differences in playing styles and personality. Paul joined the Houston Rockets two seasons ago and flourished in his first, when he ranked behind only Harden in isolation efficiency among high-volume players.

Yet Paul took a noticeable step back last season after coming back from a hamstring injury that ended his season in 2018 and ultimately marred this recent one.

According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Paul pushed for more plays and sets on offense, called for more screening and deception — all while Harden was in the midst of one of the most dominant runs in NBA history by an isolation player, perhaps the best by anyone not named Michael Jordan.

The two alphas that were initially viewed as a misfit when Paul was first traded to Houston, are now finally rearing their ugly heads, as it seems their offensive styles couldn’t be more drastically different than they have been in their two years together.

“Chris wants to coach James,” a source familiar with the stars’ dynamic said. “James looks at him like, ‘You can’t even beat your man. Just shut up and watch me.'”

Paul has also been frustrated by what he perceives as Harden’s tendency to ignore unglamorous details that impact wins, like moving once he gives up the ball to help with the spacing on the floor, instead just standing on the same spot waiting to get the ball back.

Paul wasn’t shy about expressing those concerns throughout the season.

“It’s always a little contentious when you have two alpha dogs,” a team source said. “Ask the Golden State Warriors if they’ve ever had problems between their stars.

“There is contention there, but they know they’re tied at the hip, and they want to win. They’re smart. They won’t let it affect the team… That is not the reason Golden State beat us.”

Yet this is hardly the first time rumors about these two All-Star-caliber players have clashed, with Paul often playing second fiddle in this offense and only becoming an important part of the team’s offense once Harden leaves the floor.

According to MacMahon, Paul “cherishes the chance to play without Harden” on the floor. Paul has barked at head coach Mike D’Antoni to keep Harden on the bench while he was running the second unit — all while Harden simultaneously would demand to check back into the game.

Houston, we have a big, big problem.