The Houston Rockets made their trade for Chris Paul official on Friday, introducing the nine-time All-Star point guard to the media, and they were careful not to hype his pairing with MVP runner-up James Harden too much, only calling them the smartest, most complementary teammates ever.
Here’s how Rockets general manager Daryl Morey opened the news conference on Friday:
“This is a moment that our whole organization has been working towards to get ourselves back to a championship, and we really think this historic pairing of Chris Paul and James Harden and the great players we have around them is one that really gives us an unbelievable chance at getting back to getting our third championship. I say historic pairing, because no one has ever put together two players this smart, this complementary, and especially two of the best passers in NBA history, on one team.”
Well, then. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant must be shaking in their boots. Those Golden State Warriors teammates, who share three regular-season Most Valuable Player awards and a Finals MVP (you know, from the championship they just won), definitely aren’t as cerebral or complementary.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen come to mind. They won six titles together. They weren’t as smart and complementary as Paul and Harden, though. Bill Russell and Bob Cousy also won six rings as a duo, but people weren’t as smart or complementary in those days. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar only won five championships as a tandem, so their intellect and cohesion must’ve been off.
Are we even sure Paul is the smartest, most complementary teammate Harden has ever had? He played with Durant in Oklahoma City, but maybe Russell Westbrook threw off the chemistry.
Morey did throw in that “two of the best passers in NBA history” caveat, so if we go strictly by assists per game, Paul and Harden do have the highest career averages of any two teammates in NBA history. But Larry Bird and Bill Walton weren’t so bad, either. They were pretty smart and complementary, too.
To his credit, Paul took a different tact, quoting one of the greats from a different sport:
“Some people are built different and kudos to them who are like that, but I’m built different. I always say I’m the most competitive person I know, and looking at my wife she’s rolling her eyes probably, because some people may say that’s a good thing, some people may say it’s a bad thing, but I’m ultra-competitive so there’s no reason in playing unless you’re playing to win. I think Ricky Bobby said it best, ‘If you’re not first, you’re last.’ Right? Right? Straight up. We have one goal here and that’s to win.”
Now, that’s funny.
As for smarts, Paul and Harden seem brilliant, except for when they melt down in the playoffs:
Harden’s NBA-record 464 turnovers this past season are evidence to the contrary. And that time Harden dated Khloe Kardashian maybe wasn’t the wisest of choices. But you generally don’t get to be an All-NBA player without smarts. Speaking of which, did you know Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain were both All-NBA players as teammates on the title-winning Los Angeles Lakers in 1971-72?
But to call Paul and Harden complementary, let alone the most complementary, is maybe a tad bit presumptuous, considering we have nothing beyond our imaginations to determine whether or not the two ball-dominant and headstrong guards can even coexist yet. This is an experiment that is not likely to result in a championship, so long as Curry and Durant remain teammates in Golden State, and Paul can opt out of his current contract next summer, if they’re not as complementary as they say.
We understand Morey is proud of his new backcourt pairing, and it’s his job to sell the All-Star combination to Houston, but maybe wait a little longer than the first 20 seconds of the introductory news conference before declaring, Nobody has ever put together two teammates like I just did. Just imagine what the Rockets general manager might say if he adds Carmelo Anthony to this mix.
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