HEADLINE

Rockets GM downplays tension between Harden, Paul

Field Level Media

June 17, 2019 at 4:16 pm.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said he isn’t concerned by reports of tension between James Harden and Chris Paul.

Morey also said the Rockets shouldn’t be overlooked as the team to beat in the NBA’s Western Conference, even as free agency shuffles the deck.

In a wide-ranging interview Monday on the Golic & Wingo show on ESPN Radio, Morey responded to an ESPN story that said there’s unrest between All-Stars Harden and Paul.

“We have two high-level competitors, Chris and James, who their only goal in life at this point is to win the title. They’ve accomplished everything else. They are both going to be first-ballot Hall of Famers. Two competitive superstars at that level, there’s going to be times when they are extremely competitive, extremely focused on how do we get to that next level, and when we don’t there’s going to be frustration,” Morey said. “I’m frustrated, our top players are frustrated, Mike D’Antoni is frustrated. We want to take the last step and be the champion and I think it’s good that there is tension in the sense that we all want to win.”

Morey also disputed reports that Paul has asked to be traded and confirmed that he intends to come to contract terms with D’Antoni.

“He’s going to be our coach next year. We’re hoping to work things out for the future right now; if we don’t, we’re going to work it out after next season,” he said. “We love Mike, he’s a favorite of our players — all our top players love playing for him. We’re going to work it out.”

The Rockets have not won an NBA title since 1994 and lost in the Western Conference finals in two of the past five seasons during the reign of the Golden State Warriors. Morey said the team intends to be aggressive this offseason in pursuing the needed pieces to get back to the NBA Finals, and owner Tilman Fertitta has given him the green light to spend what is necessary.

“We feel like we should be the favorite in the West, and we’re going to do moves to show people that we should be the favorite in the West, and that’s going to create a little tension when we do that,” Morey said. “But at the end of the day, we’re going to have at least our starting five back, which again most teams are scrambling to keep it together and we’re going to spend midlevel, we’re going to spend into the tax. We’re going to be one of the most expensive rosters like we were last year and this year and we’re going to be right there.”

The Warriors finished last season with a 53-29 (.646) record and the previous season at 65-17 (.793).

Morey, 46, has been the Rockets’ GM since 2007. Under his leadership, the Rockets have made the playoffs nine times and haven’t had a sub-.500 record. He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2018.