However, things didn't exactly pan out that way as the Rockets were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals in six games earlier this month. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, James Harden and Chris Paul got into a verbal altercation late in Game 6 and the tension spilled over into the locker room.
"But Harden and Paul had tense moments with one another throughout Game 6, culminating in a verbal back-and-forth postgame that went into the locker room, sources with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. Sources said the verbal exchange between Harden and Paul was regarding the ball distribution throughout Game 6. By the time the remainder of the locker room was ready to talk, Paul and Harden had gone their separate ways, with Paul swiftly making his way to the postgame podium. The Rockets dispensed with exit interviews this year, so the media hasn't been able to ask Paul or Harden about the disappointment."
The Rockets basically brought back the same team for the 2018-19 season, with the notable losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Both Paul and center Clint Capela were re-signed to hefty contracts in the belief that Houston could make another deep postseason run.
In addition, Harden had an MVP-caliber season in which he put together averages of 36.1 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc. In 11 games during the postseason, Harden averaged 31.6 points and shot 35 percent from 3.
Harden is definitely the focal point of the franchise and has helped form one of the more talented backcourts in the Western Conference. It's possible that Harden could secure his second consecutive MVP award next month when the NBA holds its annual awards show following the Finals.
It's definitely not the best situation considering that this core group of Harden, Paul, and Capela are going to be together for the foreseeable future. It'll be interesting to see how the offseason unfolds and if this is the last we'll see of tension between Harden and Paul.