Are Chris Paul and James Harden friends? That might be the biggest question -- other than what the immediate future holds for the Warriors -- heading into the NBA offseason.
After losing to the Warriors in the second round of the NBA playoffs, reports have repeatedly leaked out about the Rockets, with the latest suggesting the relationship between the two star guards is "unsalvageable" and Paul has demanded a trade.
Well, not long after that report dropped Tuesday, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey went on the defensive, shooting down the report of the trade demand while denying there is friction between his backcourt stars.
A thoroughly exasperated Daryl Morey said Chris Paul and his reps have never asked to trade him and he will be on Rockets next season. Said he and Harden do not have issues with one another and that he has spoken to both often this off-season about free agency evaluations, plans.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) June 18, 2019
Morey gave an example: Said he had Harden and Paul on face time with him as they discussed 50 free agents together. Said he has spoken to both players quite a few times since the season with no indications either has changed their stance. https://t.co/bnBJH6zt0J— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) June 18, 2019
So, which one is it?
It would be easy to view this as Morey doing damage control. If Paul has asked for a trade, then word getting out would put the Rockets at a disadvantage in negotiations.
However, now that the Rockets have been on summer vacation for six weeks, perhaps Harden and Paul have cooled off and hashed things out.
Losing to the Warriors without Kevin Durant might have broken the rival Rockets. There was a report that Paul and Harden had a tense exchange following the Rockets' Game 6 loss in Houston. Now it appears things could be worse than initially imagined.
With Golden State limping out of the NBA Finals with both Durant and Klay Thompson injured and headed for free agency, now would be the perfect time for the Rockets to finally take what they believe is their rightful place atop the conference. If CP3 and The Beard are on the outs, though, there's no telling what the offseason could hold for the Rockets.
Paul is owed $38.5, $41.3 and $44,2 million, respectively, over the next three seasons. With the surefire Hall of Famer's body continuing to break down, it's hard to see a team that would be willing to take on that price tag for the aging star.
Then again, perhaps all is jolly in Rocketland and the two stars will continue to make those State Farm commercials everyone loves so much.