The Rockets and Chris Paul had a bitter break up this summer. Although they tried to keep their problems from spilling into the public, it became clear Houston was ready to move on from CP3. This led to the Rockets reuniting James Harden with Russell Westbrook by trading Paul to the Thunder. Despite moving on from the toxic relationship, team owner Tilman Fertitta sent a slight sub at their ex.
During an interview with The Athletic's Sam Amick, Fertitta discussed the team's new direction now that Houston has a more explosive point guard.
"You know, we think we’re a much better team. We used to be one of the top transition teams [in the league], and we’ve slowed down the last few years (they were 27th in pace last season, 13th in 2017-18, and third in the 2016-17 season before Paul arrived)," reads one Fertitta quote.
While he didn't call Paul out by name, fans are assuming this is a dig at CP3. The evidence to support these assumptions is Fertitta reneging on his deal with Paul. CP3 and the Rockets agreed to a four-year, $159.7 million contract. Yet NBA insiders told ESPN's Tim MacMahon that Fertitta openly discussed how bad the move was in front of other NBA executives. He then implored general manager Daryl Morey to find a suitable trade for Paul.
Fertitta's comments to Amick also touched on the rumors that there was locker room tension between Harden and Paul. During the summer, their differences were attributed to the player's "alpha dog" mentalities. But Fertitta gave the impression that Paul required an unnecessary amount of respect from Harden.
"And 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," he continued. "I just think it’s going to go well. They both want to win."
As a member of the Thunder, Paul is now in a position where he'll have to be the veteran presence. As for Westbrook and Harden, they will look to rekindle their connection since they are now one of the dynamic duos in the Western Conference. And unlike Paul, they are in the position to make a deep playoff push.