ESPN published a really eye opening piece today on the turmoil within the Western Conference’s second best team over the last few years. There were several nuggets uncharacteristic of the typical news story which may have fueled the existing flames in the rumor mill.
“Chris wants to coach James,” says a source familiar with the stars’ dynamic. “James looks at him like, ‘You can’t even beat your man. Just shut up and watch me.'”
I said a few weeks back that I sided with Chris Paul in this conflict because what he’s saying is completely right. James Harden, for all his brilliance, does have certain tendencies which detract from winning. One of those tendencies is his disinterested loafing around away from the play when he is not the primary ballhandler during a certain possession. He could be getting himself in position to score off the ball. In fact, as Jalen Rose noted when he first opined on this feud, when Harden does this, it undermines Chris Paul because Paul needs off-ball movement from the other four players on his team for his possessions to be successful. Paul is first and foremost a creator in this stage of his career.
But its awkward because, as the anonymous quote suggests, what credibility does Paul have at this point? You can’t bark at a guy to do a certain thing when you’re not contributing yourself. And Paul was dreadful at points against the Warriors. Why would Harden listen to him when he’s been carrying the Rockets, basically all season, and in that series?
The response to that question though is that Harden needs to understand that it can only help his chances at winning if he does the things that will make his team better when he doesn’t have the ball. Paul is still a brilliant passer and playmaker, even if he can no longer beat his man off the dribble. Wouldn’t it make things easier for James if he got a few easy buckets off the ball? Can anyone get that through to him?