After a rocky summer in which their [James Harden and C…

After a rocky summer in which their [James Harden and Chris Paul’s] prickly inner dynamics were revealed to the outside world and certainly played a part in the Westbrook move, sources say that a familiar debate – how much they focus on offense vs. the need to take more of a prideful approach to defense – has been a point of early frustration among the players yet again and a topic of great focus.

More on Houston Rockets Turmoil?

Tilman Fertitta: Listen.... @dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://twitter.com/dmorey/status/1180312072027947008
Olgun Uluc: Interesting situation going on with Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, right now: - Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong. - Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, quickly distanced the team from the tweet, which has a big Chinese fanbase. - Morey’s latest tweet has been ratioed by Chinese users. pic.twitter.com/5pEHPudZ58
Daryl Morey: Tokyo wakes up.

http://twitter.com/dmorey/status/1180327691951788033
Paul and Harden have been communicating since the season ended and had a positive conversation on Father’s Day, sources said. According to sources close to Paul and Harden, the two players must continue working toward fixing any issues and accomplish the goals they both have set out: Winning a championship in Houston.
Tim MacMahon: Houston player to me recently: “I hope they don’t panic. I hope they don’t make drastic moves. We are right there. We’ve just got to figure out some things, fine tune some things, but we are right there. We don’t need to change much. It’s not the time to f---ing panic.”
Chris runs hot, too… PJ Tucker: Yeah, Chris is a hothead. But Chris wants to win. Chris might be the most competitive person I’ve ever been around in my life, and I’ve known him my whole life (Tucker and Paul grew up playing against each other on the North Carolina AAU circuit). Like, period. Chris wants to fucking win. Period. Chris wants to win. I don’t care. Chris wants to win.
Does the way he’s wired still help the group? PJ Tucker: I don’t see how it can’t (help the group). I can’t be around somebody who wants to win like that and not want to win. So if you can’t do that, then this might not be where you need to be, because that’s the stuff you need to be able to win. I wasn’t (sweating the recent reports). I ain’t talking to nobody, because I know. I live it every day. There’s nobody on our team together more than me and James and Chris, so why would I sweat it?
Rumors and speculation could not touch Chris Paul now — if they ever could — not here, not on a day like this. The Rockets guard, surrounded by his family in a break in the Go Hoop Day celebrations he co-founded, never seemed more comfortable, more in control, talking about his vision for the event and recognized by the City of Los Angeles for driving it. He had briefly addressed his place with the Rockets and future between portions of the clinics held on Sunday at Crete Academy. But there was one more point to make.
“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.” He did not seem angry about the reports that he had, in part because he had nearly completed the day’s events on a near-perfect Southern California afternoon. He had stepped away for a place on nearby picnic tables, surrounded by his large family, munching on a plant-based burger from one of the event’s sponsors, Beyond Meat, as Paul completed his 11th day since becoming a vegan.
By then, the day’s celebration of basketball might have made it difficult to get too worked up over the off-season rumor mill. Paul was much more effusive about that cause, but he did briefly address speculation that he wants to leave the Rockets and that there is a rift with star backcourt mate James Harden. “I’ll be in Houston,” Paul said. “I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”
The report cited Paul’s frustration with the offense and a push for more ball movement and off-ball actions, a la Golden State. But Paul isn’t the only one. Several members of the team expressed similar opinions throughout the year and into the offseason, including Eric Gordon’s frustration after a blowout loss in Utah, and continuing with Austin Rivers’ appearance recently on First Take. Per team sources, those complaints have been heard and management has discussed a system that involves less isolation basketball and more ball movement heading into next season. Speeding the game up and looking for easier baskets was also brought up in conversations, per a team source.
For what it’s worth, Houston doesn’t see this as a real problem. One source harkened back to the Dwight Howard days, for a real broken and dysfunctional relationship. “There will always be tension when you’re trying to get shit right,” cited one team source. “Every aspect of basketball gets debated at some point, and the way we lost sucked. “We’ve had players (in the past) who didn’t care about anything other than themselves and wanted everyone else to shore them up. We don’t see (Harden/Paul tension) as a big deal.”
“I think they’re close,” Danuel House told The Athletic. “They talk all the time, they do a lot together and they joke all the time. But they work differently.” “I felt like there wasn’t any tension, me personally being there. But being a younger guy and sticking to my role and trying to lock in, I can’t really focus on what happened or what’s been said or done.”
Mark Berman: #Rockets owner @Tilman Fertitta on James Harden & Chris Paul: "These are 2 very competitive athletes & all they want to do is win a championship together for the Houston Rockets. We're excited to have them back and we look forward to using this opportunity to try to be successful"
Jonathan Feigen: 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.

https://twitter.com/Rockets_Insider/status/1141094280481714176

http://twitter.com/UncleDrew_20/status/1141093814335131654
The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise. Harden hasn’t returned Paul’s repeated attempts at communicating this offseason, sources said, after a year in which the pair repeatedly got under each other’s skin with petty acts in practices and games.
Harden’s ball-dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul, leading to the nine-time All-Star issuing his trade demand to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after the season. Sources said Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni about the offense bogging down after Harden would ask to come into the game to join the second unit, with Paul heading to the bench. “It can’t be fixed,” another league source told Yahoo Sports about the Harden-Paul partnership.
SportsTalk 790: .@SeanUnfiltered: "Does Chris Paul want to be traded?" @dmorey: "No, Chris Paul does not want to be traded." @SeanUnfiltered: "Will you field calls on Chris Paul?" @dmorey: "No, we want to add one more star to this team."
The prevailing belief in Houston -- and hope, certainly -- is that the tension between the Rockets' stars isn't atypical for the NBA and can be managed. And that's a must, given the unlikelihood of getting equal basketball value for the 34-year-old Paul in a trade, considering he is owed $124 million over the final three years of his contract.
According to sources, Paul was also frustrated by what he perceived as Harden's tendency to ignore unglamorous details that impact winning -- such as moving when he gives up the ball to help spacing -- and wasn't shy about expressing those concerns. "It's always a little contentious when you have two alpha dogs," a team source says. "Ask the Golden State Warriors if they've ever had problems between their stars.
It has reached a point, team sources say, where Paul cherishes the chance to play without Harden on the floor. On several occasions, according to team sources, Paul barked at D'Antoni to keep Harden on the bench while he was running the second unit. Harden simultaneously would lobby -- or demand -- to check back into the game.
Harden, by nature, tends to avoid conflict but was pushed hard enough to snap back at Paul from time to time. That's what happened during the Rockets' elimination loss, when, team sources said, Harden told Paul he didn't always know best and had talked too much. "Chris has a personality where he just doesn't let anything go," a team source says. "He just keeps pestering and pestering and pestering and pestering. Sometimes James has had enough -- and not just him. That's what makes [Paul] a winner and also what keeps him from being a big-time winner. He's got to temper that."
Fertitta has grumbled about Paul's contract, expressing regrets to Rockets staffers and even in front of rival executives, according to league sources.
Fertitta failed to mention the buyout language that guaranteed D'Antoni only half of his base salary if the Rockets fired him before the extension began. That was the primary sticking point for D'Antoni, who hoped for a commitment of two more seasons beyond this contract and never seriously considered a half-hearted offer of one more year. Five days later, Fertitta boarded his private jet along with Morey and flew to West Virginia to smooth things over with D'Antoni. The Rockets' executives returned to Houston believing they had a handshake deal. "I feel very good about it, and I've always felt good," Fertitta told ESPN the following week. "I'm disappointed that it got talked about in the press, and I'm disappointed I responded in the press."
As an olive branch, Fertitta offered $2 million in incentives tied to playoff advancement in 2019-20, the remaining season on D'Antoni's current contract, if they worked out an extension. He also agreed to remove the buyout language, claiming LeGarie hadn't made it clear it was considered so problematic. D'Antoni told them the reworked offer sounded good, but they needed to iron out the details with LeGarie. "I have not heard from them since that trip to visit Mike," LeGarie says. "Mike is prepared to coach out his contract." LeGarie insists that a second year and a higher base salary are musts to sign an extension with the Rockets. He was annoyed D'Antoni, a client for more than three decades, came across as agreeable to a lesser proposal without consulting him.
That will be particularly challenging in the case of finding a replacement for former associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik, a defensive guru who opted to retire right before training camp last fall in part because he felt he wasn't receiving enough respect from the Rockets' front office, according to league sources.
Tim MacMahon: James Harden as Rockets wrap up a winless road trip: "We all go through tough times in life. You just have to figure your way out of it. Obviously, we want to be perfect, we want things to go great and sometimes they don't and you hit a speed bump. We've got to figure it out."
Where do they go for a solution? The reserved Gordon hasn’t been the happiest of campers this season, but even he couldn’t hold back any longer when I caught up with him as he was leaving Vivent Arena. “I’m just not having fun man,” Gordon told The Athletic. “I’m just not. This sucks. Even the times where I have good games. We’re just not using some guys the right way. Are we gonna make the right sacrifices? Do we have the right attitude? “Last year was the best year I’ve ever had being a part of a team,” he added. “We just never had a bad moment. If we ever had a bad game as a team, you knew the next game we would blow somebody out. It didn’t matter who it was.”
Marc Stein: More from the pregame media sessions in Houston: Rockets GM Daryl Morey said "a lot" of the team's struggles to open the season are "on me" and Coach Mike D'Antoni acknowledged that management is "exploring all options" in the wake of a 4-7 start
With the Rockets slumping, with losses in seven of nine games, but also with a record that is the fourth-best in the NBA, they said they have to maintain a mix of urgency and confidence. "That's what we're fighting with right now," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We're fighting as coaches, is what we're doing good enough? Is it tired legs, injuries and we need to hang in there, or do we need to change something? It's a fine balance. I can't say a coach always knows. I can tell you afterwards. We'll try to play with a swagger and confidence."
"We know we have the ability and the talent in the group we have (healthy) to win," forward Ryan Anderson said. "We just need to come together and battle harder, play harder. I want to look myself in the mirror regardless of how many looks I get, if shots fall or not, I want to play harder. We just have to clear our heads and put all this, this little stretch, behind us. We know we can play so much better."
Houston Rockets management repeatedly pushed for Clint Capela to get more playing time at the expense of Dwight Howard last season, sources told ESPN, adding to the disharmony that played a prominent role in the team's disappointing 2015-16 campaign.
Former Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff resisted complying with the wishes of general manager Daryl Morey and owner Leslie Alexander regarding a drastic reduction in Howard's playing time. Team sources said Alexander never participated in the meetings with Morey and Bickerstaff but fully supported the general manager's plan to prioritize Capela's development.
Sources said Howard learned of management's attempts to cut his minutes in midseason and shared a mutual interest with the Rockets front office to move him before the trade deadline. The Rockets shopped Howard, according to sources, but no deal came close to materializing largely due to Houston's ambitious asking price: an immediate major contributor and either a promising developmental project or future first-round pick.
That likely will be only the start. Morey disputed the depiction of the Rockets' chemistry problems, saying that they were no greater than is typical when teams play badly and that the chemistry was no worse this season than it was good with the same players last season. But anyone privy to all those team meetings could describe dysfunction that will have to be addressed. Next season's coach will have to demand or inspire that kind of change and likely will have to convince Morey, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and CEO Tad Brown that he can turn the Rockets into a team built to win in the postseason.
But he disputed the notion that he does not value chemistry or that it was as much of an issue this season as many, including some of his players, have said. "I think it's hugely important," Morey said. "I don't remember articles about how our chemistry was great last year. I don't remember articles last year that said how great our guys were together. That's a label people throw on a team when it's not going well. The reality is we didn't have enough guys playing together and playing well. Last year, we had a lot of guys playing well and playing together. It's the same group of guys. They had good chemistry. They just didn't play well.
Mark Berman: Jason Terry asked why James Harden and Dwight Howard didn't click this year: "Could be a contrast in styles. I think those two have to be put in a system where they have to learn to play together. I just think they're two different styles. They just couldn't co-exist to have success this year. It worked last year, but this year it was just different for some reason."
Howard is frustrated because he believes Harden doesn't respect him enough. Howard texts former teammates asking what can be done to solve the problems. That same poor dynamic between Harden and Howard, and the inconsistent play of others has hurt Bickerstaff, who took over 11 games into the season when Alexander fired McHale. "The team was not responding to Kevin," Morey said at the time of the firing. "There is no time in the West."
As the Rockets rushed from the Oracle Arena visitor's locker room and a long, frustrating season, James Harden looked to the off-season pledging to return a better player. "Just a tough year. Tough year," Harden said. "I think every player, every great player goes through it. It's an opportunity to get better. I'll come back as a better basketball player. "It was a frustrating year. A lot of ups. A lot of downs. I have to be better next year."
Adrian Wojnarowski: JB Bickerstaff had impossible job: Interim where two stars hated each other -- and brought it onto court. He can be a good NBA head coach.
“That’s going to happen,” Terry said regarding distractions. “I’ve been around this thing a long time. You will be faced with all types of adversities and how you come through those is a sign of the type of team you have. Our team was just not strong enough mentally to get through those adversities and learn. A lesson for [Harden] as a star of a team, you have to deal with certain issues and still be able to be mentally tough to bring your level of play up with your team and get them to where you want them to go. It happens.”
Storyline: Houston Rockets Turmoil?
More HoopsHype Rumors
May 27, 2020 | 9:30 pm EDT Update
Pritzker has said the state of Illinois is on pace to enter Phase 3 of its reopening process on Friday. Lori Lightfoot indicated in plans released Tuesday that the city of Chicago will likely follow suit in early June, which is why the Bulls must still seek permission from city officials. Many Bulls, upon receiving clearance from the league in March, departed the Chicagoland area. In recent weeks, some in the area have visited the Advocate Center for treatment and rehab sessions with league permission, according to Johnson.
May 27, 2020 | 8:35 pm EDT Update
Colangelo said the original dates of enshrinement weekend, Aug. 28-30, and the proposed alternate dates of Oct. 10-12 are “just not feasible” in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 100,000 in the U.S. and has rendered large gatherings taboo. The board of governors will convene on June 10, he said, to explore spring dates.
May 27, 2020 | 8:08 pm EDT Update
May 27, 2020 | 6:57 pm EDT Update


May 27, 2020 | 5:17 pm EDT Update
‘I honestly want the death penalty for the cops because he casually, hand in his pocket, killed my brother,’ Jackson, 42, told the Daily Mail. ‘No effort. He put no effort into killing him. Kneeled on his neck, had him cuffed, and just suffocated him. ‘The only way that people are gonna feel like there’s justice, and the only way these police are gonna stop killing people in broad daylight like it ain’t nothing, is if they start dying too.’

May 27, 2020 | 4:44 pm EDT Update
NBA Central: Austin Rivers talks about the time an unranked Kyrie showed up to Deron Williams’ camp and gave buckets to the top ranked HS players in the country “He wasn’t even supposed to be there…Guys were like ‘Who the f*ck is this guy?’” (🎥 @uninterrupted ) pic.twitter.com/2YHYeXx0AM

Steve Kerr can’t watch it, and Stan Van Gundy doesn’t need to. Many black people have to keep away from it, because watching yet another video of an African American being killed at the hands of the state strips away at their souls and state of mind — that it can happen at any point with very little recourse. A knee to the neck of George Floyd until his breath is taken away.
“I think all you have to do is read the story to understand that this was a horrific act and, unfortunately, a story that’s all too familiar in our country,” Kerr told Yahoo Sports recently. “We have to do something about it. I think in particular … white people need to stand up and say we’re not gonna stand for this. All we have to do is imagine if the roles were reversed, the races were reversed, it would be a completely different outcome.”
“I’ve never met a single black parent that doesn’t have to sit their kids down and talk to them very directly about how you deal with the police if you’re stopped,” Van Gundy said. “‘You do this, this and this, so you come home alive.’ I started getting more of that in my career. I’m like holy [expletive]. I’ve never once talked to my kids about that or felt the need to. If my kid got pulled over, it was because they deserved to get pulled over. Even if they mouthed off, nobody was gonna shoot them.”
May 27, 2020 | 3:48 pm EDT Update
May 27, 2020 | 3:40 pm EDT Update
Some overseas players have an NBA-buyout clause in their contract (also known as an NBA-out) that allows them to leave their international team if they get an offer from an NBA franchise. Some NBA-outs are monetary buyouts, but many of these buyouts give players a certain date in which they are allowed to test the free-agent market and secure an NBA offer. “Every year, there are a number of overseas players who exercise their buyout clause to sign with an NBA team, and the deadline for those buyout clauses is normally between July 10 and July 20,” one international agent said. “That way, it’s during the free-agency period and the player has the option of participating in Summer League beforehand to see if an NBA team is going to offer him a guaranteed deal or a two-way contract.”
“We’re in limbo because the dates no longer match the NBA’s schedule,” one agent said. “It seems like the NBA doesn’t understand that moving free agency by several months will prevent most overseas players from coming over to the NBA because their contract only allows them to exercise their buyout clause in July.” Also, some NBA-buyout clauses “are based on a certain number of days after the team’s last game,” according to another agent. These could present some unique challenges as well.
Some agents are hopeful that logic will prevail and the involved parties will be able to adjust the contract language without any trouble. “FIBA released some overarching guidelines and one of them is that they expect teams and players to engage in what they call ‘good-faith negotiations’ on these kinds of topics,” one agent said. “They’re basically encouraging teams and players to compromise and figure these things out. They don’t want to have to resolve a thousand disputes like this. Let’s say a player had an NBA buyout set for July 15, which is 15 days after the start of free agency. The logical argument is that the new buyout date should still be 15 days after the start of free agency. So, if NBA free agency begins on October 1, the new buyout date should be October 15. The hope is that a lot of these situations can be sorted out logically.”
It could also mean that the summer of 2021 features more overseas talent than usual since it would essentially have two offseasons’ worth of free agents who are looking to exercise their NBA-out. “The NBA is focused on so many other things right now, so I think this just slipped their mind,” one international agent said. “But this could have a big impact on teams that are targeting overseas players.”
Even if the NBA did find a way to have a 2020 Summer League, it couldn’t start until September or October. By then, many overseas leagues would have already wrapped up their free-agency period, meaning most fringe players would’ve already signed with a team overseas and wouldn’t be able to participate in Summer League. “If Summer League isn’t until September or October, everyone would just skip it and take a guaranteed deal with an overseas team instead,” one agent said. “Who is going to jeopardize a guaranteed deal for the entire season just to play in the Summer League for two weeks?”
According to research in which we looked at every team’s path to their eventual championship wins (we only examined champions who had to win four playoff series during their postseason runs), Hakeem Olajuwon’s 1994-95 Houston Rockets had the toughest road ever to winning a title. The worst team they beat had a 57-25 record, and that was their Finals opponent, the Orlando Magic, who boasted a lineup featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardway, amongst many valuable role players.
It’s a shame they weren’t even mentioned in The Last Dance, even though they were champions when Michael Jordan made his midseason return to the NBA. Some of the other toughest roads faced on the way to a title, per our research, include Jordan’s 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, LeBron James’ 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers, who had to face the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the Finals, and the Shaq-and-Kobe–Bryant 2001-02 squad.
May 27, 2020 | 3:31 pm EDT Update
Last week, ESPN came up with the all-time starting five for every NBA team. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Wilt Chamberlain made the cut for the Warriors. Hey Rick Barry — does that bother you at all? “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” the Hall of Famer said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And that’s all it is — the opinion of some people. It is what it is. I know who I am. I know who I was as a player, and that doesn’t change. Who cares. “Bottom line is — I have my championship ring sitting on my finger that I’m looking at right now.”
In 1975, Barry helped bring the franchise its first NBA title since it relocated from Philadelphia to the Bay Area in 1962. He averaged 29.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 steals in the NBA Finals that year, as the Warriors swept the heavily-favored Washington Bullets. “We won as a team. We didn’t win because of any one individual,” Barry explained. “We won because we made a commitment to playing the game the right way, and everybody was a major contributor. “That’s what made it so very special. We were like a family.”
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