Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers shot down rumors of discord between James Harden and Chris Paul on Tuesday.
In an interview with TMZ Sports, Rivers said he saw no signs that Harden and Paul had significant issues with each other during the 2018-19 season:
“I know nothing about any of that. I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Rivers said. “A lot of fantasy tales being told right now. … It’s definitely not true. I didn’t see any issues between any of them. It’s just made up news, fake news like most of the stuff you see on these Instagram pages.”
Rivers’ comments were in response to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, who cited sources who called the relationship between Harden and CP3 “unsalvageable.” He also reported that Paul demanded a trade and that “Harden issued a him-or-me edict” following Houston’s playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors.
After Harden and Paul led the Rockets to the NBA’s best record and within one win of the NBA Finals in 2017-18, Houston took a step back last season. The Rockets only nabbed the fourth seed in the Western Conference, and Golden State beat Houston in six games in the second round of the playoffs.
The regression immediately led to speculation that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey could shake up the roster entering the 2019-20 campaign.
Playing alongside Paul for the first time two seasons ago, Harden put up huge numbers and was named NBA MVP. Harden was arguably even better last season, as he led the NBA in scoring with 36.1 points per game and added averages of 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds as well.
Paul has been limited to 58 games in each of the past two years, though, and with Clint Capela also missing time last season, Harden essentially had to play one-man basketball for a significant portion of the campaign.
After getting waived by the Phoenix Suns last season, Rivers signed with the Rockets and appeared in 47 regular-season games as a backup combo guard behind both Harden and Paul, which suggests he would be as privy to their relationship as anyone.
Rivers is set to hit free agency, but he remains open to re-signing with the Rockets and sticking with Harden and Paul, saying, “Yeah, I’d love to. Both Hall of Fame players.”
Even if there are issues between Harden and Paul, there is plenty of incentive to make it work. With both Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles) and Klay Thompson (torn ACL) set to become free agents and likely to miss most or all of 2019-20 even if they re-sign with Golden State, the Western Conference is there for the taking.
Houston has been the best team in the West aside from Golden State over the past two seasons, so keeping the core of Harden, Paul and Capela intact and tweaking the squad around them may be enough to finally reach the NBA Finals.