Chris Paul

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Rockets owner: Harden and Westbrook talk like brothers ‘instead of one thinking that he’s the mentor’

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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta hasn’t hidden his discontent with Chris Paul‘s shortcomings.

Sure, Fertitta says plenty of niceties about Paul, whom Houston traded to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook. But even Fertitta’s optimism about James Harden and Westbrook – who were friends as kids and played together in Oklahoma City – includes what sounds like criticism of Paul.

Fertitta, via Sam Amick of The Athletic:

James and Russ go back a long ways in California, so they can talk to each other like brothers, you know, instead of one (player) thinking that he’s the mentor. I just think it’s going to go well.

At the very least, it’ll be impossible to convince anyone that assessment is uninfluenced by seeing Paul throughout the previous two seasons. At most, it’s a deliberate shot at Paul.

Paul has always been the general. As he has gotten older, that has bended into being the mentor.

It’s often very helpful. Paul’s focus, discipline and intensity have generally served his teams well. His teammates have benefited from following his lead.

But Paul can also wear on people. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened with Harden, who’s better than Paul and had established himself as Houston’s franchise player before Paul ever arrived. Paul had never even gotten past the second round before teaming with Harden. If you were Harden, how much would you want to hear Paul telling you the right way to do things? There were clearly issues between the two.

Now, Harden and Westbrook get a fresh start together. They sound quite eager about teaming up.

But don’t assume it will definitely go better. It’s like friends becoming roommates. Sometimes, it strengthens the relationship. Sometimes, it ruins the relationship. It’s often difficult to tell which way it will go until moving in.

Remember, Harden and Paul were initially enthusiastic about their partnership.

Thunder unload stars for all the right reasons

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

So many teams spent this summer trying to create star duos. The Lakers (LeBron James and Anthony Davis), Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George), Nets (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) and Rockets (James Harden and Russell Westbrook) certainly succeeded.

Meanwhile, the Thunder already had a star duo in place… and disassembled it.

Oklahoma City became the first team in NBA history to trade two reigning All-NBA players in a single offseason. Why did the Thunder take the unprecedented step to move Paul George and Russell Westbrook?

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • 2021: Most favorable of Rockets (top-four protected), Thunder and Heat first-round picks
  • 2021: Second-most favorable of Rockets (top-four protected), Thunder and Heat first-round picks
  • 2022: Clippers first-round pick
  • 2023: Heat first-round pick (top-14 protected for three years then unprotected in 2026)
  • 2023: Swap rights with Clippers first-round pick
  • 2024: Clippers first-round pick
  • 2024: Rockets first-round pick (top-four protected)
  • 2025: Swap rights with Rockets first-round pick (top-10 protected) or Clippers first-round pick
  • 2026: Clippers first-round pick
  • 2026: Rockets first-round pick (top-four protected)

That’s an incredible collection of resources. Before anyone even knew a rebuild was underway, Oklahoma City got a huge head start toward its next era.

Not at a bad time, either.

The Thunder had stagnated post-Kevin Durant. They won in the high 40s and lost in the first round the last three years. Westbrook was aging. The supporting cast was expensive, especially considering the luxury-tax repeater bill. There was no clear way forward.

The Clippers offered a lifeboat. To entice Kawhi Leonard to sign, they traded five first-round picks and two first-round swaps for George. L.A.’s desperate was Oklahoma City’s gain. Suddenly, the Thunder had assets and a direction.

They traded Jerami Grant to the Nuggets for a top-10-protected first-rounder. Then came the dramatic, era-ending move. Oklahoma City worked with Westbrook to send him to Houston, securing another couple first-rounders and first-round swap rights.

Of course, a large part of the Thunder’s return was taking the burdensome contract of Chris Paul (three years, $124,076,442 remaining). But it’s not as if Westbrook’s contract is desirable, and his runs a year longer with a $47,063,478 salary in 2022-23.

Paul is also still a good player. So is Danilo Gallinari, whom Oklahoma City got from the Clippers to make the salary match in the George deal.

For all their effort to tear build for the future, the Thunder have a team that isn’t much worse presently. Paul, Gallinari and Steven Adams fit well together. More than a few interesting role players could fill the gaps. If everyone stays healthy and if Oklahoma City wants to compete, this group could fight for a playoff spot.

Those are big ifs, though. In their new phase, the Thunder bought out Patrick Patterson and let Alec Burks out of his deal so he could sign with the Warriors. With the same opportunity to back out, Mike Muscala (1+1 minimum) stuck with Oklahoma City. The Thunder also re-signed Nerlens Noel (one year, minimum) before pivoting, but I like that value in any situation.

If Paul and Gallinari avoid injury, Oklahoma City might stay in the race. But it’s easy to see the Thunder wanting to boost the value of their own first-round picks.

Oklahoma City did well to delay the incoming draft picks until years later, when the Clippers and Rockets might not be as good as they are now. That allows a great opportunity to rebuild on someone else’s dime while avoiding dispiriting tanking. Or the Thunder could tank themselves and really stock up on draft capital.

After years of competing, Oklahoma City was short on prime young talent. The Thunder have a few players with potential, including No. 23 pick Darius Bazley, but no real standouts beyond Gilgeous-Alexander, who came from L.A. in the George trade.

The rebuild is just beginning. A step back after a decade of stellar play will be difficult. But considering the chance of maintaining a playoff level next season while securing this influx of assets, Oklahoma City put itself in much stronger position.

Offseason grade: A

Rockets owner says championship window will only last a few years

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The Houston Rockets had their chance to head to the NBA Finals a couple of years ago. They were up on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals in 2018 before Chris Paul injured his leg. Now Paul is gone, and in his place is Russell Westbrook.

But does that make them any more of a favorite to make it to the Finals?

The Rockets are certainly hoping so, and it appears that owner Tilman Fertitta knows this is a big opportunity. For once it’s the Warriors who are entering the season banged up, and Houston finally has an opening.

Via Yahoo!:

“I think we put ourselves in the position that if we don’t win it in the next three or four years, we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports in an interview to promote his debut book titled “Shut Up And Listen,” which hits all major bookstores on Tuesday. “This is our window, and we need to seize the opportunity.”

This is completely reasonable. Most teams get a championship window in the 2-to-4 year range, and although Fertitta’s estimation might be a little generous, now is the time for the Rockets to strike while the iron is hot.

It’s not as though James Harden and Westbrook will have any less competition out west. Several teams bolstered their rosters, and of course the Los Angeles Clippers are now the favorites to take over the reins in California.

Fertitta is right, however. If there was a time to count out the Warriors at season’s start, 2019 would be it. They best get to winning some games early.

Kobe Bryant says USA will no longer cakewalk to gold: ‘The days of 1992 are over’

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It’s been the common refrain from American basketball observers in the wake of the USA finishing out of the medals — seventh or eighth, actually, depending on Saturday’s game against Poland — in the FIBA World Cup in China:

The USA didn’t send their best team, and the rest of the world is too good at the game now for America to get away with that.

Kobe Bryant said this is nothing new and American audiences had better get used to it.

“I hear that a lot – did we send the best possible team that could come out here. The Redeem Team, we needed a helluva fourth quarter to beat Spain, and we still needed a really late push to beat Spain in the gold medal match,” Kobe said of the 2008 USA Basketball team he was on with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and other stars. “Put the best players that you think are gonna make the best U.S. team out on the floor – it’s still not gonna be a cakewalk.

“The days of 1992 are over.”

That 2008 Redeem Team was an alignment of the biggest stars in the game at the time, fueled by Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski taking over USA Basketball after the USA took bronze in the 2004 Olympics, then finished out of the running at the 2006 World Championship (which FIBA now calls the World Cup because it desperately wants to be like its soccer counterpart). The USA won gold at every major international tournament between 2008 and 2016, but this World Cup was different, with many of the USA’s top players choosing not to come.

Kobe said he understood why many elite players chose not to come to China this year, as some dealt with injuries, while others tried to navigate recovery and moves to new cities (or teams that underwent a roster overhaul). It’s a big commitment to come.

Kobe was in Beijing during this World Cup’s final four — Argentina and Spain will face off for the title on Sunday — as an ambassador of the sport. At his press conference (attended by Rachel Thompson of NBC Sports) the questions about Team USA kept flowing, but his answer was always in the same vein — the world is changing and the USA needs to adapt to that reality.

“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time,” Kobe said. “It’s to the point where us in the U.S. are gonna win some, gonna lose some, there’s just great basketball being played. Whether it’s Redeem 2, no matter what team it is, it’s not gonna be easy.”

After this showing, expect many of America’s top players to sign up to come to Tokyo next summer for the Olympics. Guys did not want to commit two summers in a row to Team USA, and guys will always choose the Olympics — still a huge deal in America — over the often overlooked World Cup.

Just don’t expect it to be easy for those guys to win gold, either.

Chris Paul has apparently put his Houston mansion up for sale (PHOTOS)

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Chris Paul is no longer a member of the Houston Rockets, and for now it appears he will be staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then again, the trade deadline will be coming up and next February, and some might have a hard time at betting on Paul staying in the Sooner state.

In any case, the divorce between the Rockets and Paul is slowly starting to crystallize. This week it was reported that Paul had listed his Houston mansion for $8.3 million.

Via Realtor:

He didn’t own this massive mansion for very long—the residence last changed hands in April 2018. Although the price Paul paid is undisclosed, the home was on the market for $6.9 million.

The property is described as “picturesque modernism partnered with Old World Mediterranean,” and its layout features five bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, and 10,000 square feet. Built in 2013, the Lauren Rottet-designed home offers details such as Texas limestone, 200-year-old farmhouse oak beams, and clay roof tiles imported from France.

Photos of the mansion show that it’s a pretty swanky place, which makes sense given the price.

Who knows how long Paul will need to sit on that size of house? Hopefully he can get it done soon and put the Rockets in his rear-view mirror as he prepares for whatever team trades for him come next winter.