In the three months since becoming teammates, Rockets guard Chris Paul says he’s learned something very important about James Harden.
“He likes french fries just as much as I do first and foremost,” Paul said to reporters at Rockets media day Monday.
The Rockets acquired Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers on June 29 to take some of the ball-handling and playmaking pressure off Harden, something that the Rockets longest tenured player welcomes.
“Ever since I’ve been here we tried several different guys to be able to come in and try to help get me off the ball a little bit to kind of create for our team, and now you bring in a future hall of famer who obviously is one of the best we’ve ever seen at facilitating, and his attention to detail while he’s playing is something I haven’t played with. I’m excited for the journey, and I’m excited to be part of it. I just know he can make me better on the court, but off the court as well.”
Harden averaged over 36 minutes per game last season, and when he was on the floor, he did everything for the Rockets on the offensive end of the floor. In interviews during the summer, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes that his struggles at the end of the Rockets Western Conference Semifinal loss to the San Antonio Spurs had to do with the excessive load he was forced to carry. With the addition of Paul, he hopes to ease that burden, though he’s tried it before.
Two years ago, Morey traded for Ty Lawson to start next to Harden in the Rockets backcourt. The move was an absolute disaster. Lawson didn’t last long in the Rockets starting lineup and was bought out before the season even ended. Harden believes the marriage with Paul will turn out better.
“I’m giving up the ball to somebody who can do the same thing I can do but better,” he said. “I think you talk to guys, you have side conversations with Clint (Capela) and Tarik (Black) and even our wings which probably haven’t played with another guy like that and you give them advice on how to be prepared because it’s gonna be intense, and so you bring in another leader who knows how to approach different players who brings that same tenacity or that same drive to want to win and you make everybody else follow.”
Paul was just as effusive in his praise of Harden and noted that they have more in common than just their love of french fries.
“You got some guys who like and enjoy to play basketball, then you got some guys who love it, and he’s one of the guys that loves it, and he’s damn good,” Paul said.
Harden the basketball player isn’t the only thing Paul has been impressed with thus far.
“I think the thing that gets overlooked with James a lot of times is how selfless he is, how much he loves people. He loves people to be around him. He wants to see other people succeed and other people do good, and he has a big heart, so that’s what’s been cool about getting to know him even better than I did already.”