Rockets implosion was unfortunately predictable
Greatness causes dysfunction. That is something that is consistent across all sports when looking at the residual effect created by dynasties. There is a reason that the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins have been miserable for years. The Patriots are smart and one step ahead of everybody at the management level, while also having a hall of fame coach and a hall of fame quarterback.
That is intimidating on the surface, but over time it has caused management of those three other teams to not have the one thing you need desperately to win in sports. Consistency. I'm not going to try and count the combined number of quarterbacks and head coaches those three teams have had in the last 10 years, but the Patriots are the definition of consistency. When you lose, that will cause change whether it is warranted or unwarranted, and in those three AFC East teams' cases it is a little bit of both.
I do not want to compare the bombshell report that Chris Paul wants a trade to the Bills, Dolphins and Jets dysfunction. Clearly, in this comparison, the Warriors are the Patriots. The Rockets have lost four out of their last five playoff series to Golden State. I want to compare this disfunction to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have been the biggest soap opera in the NFL over the last couple of years because of two big time players. Le'Veon Bell not getting his contract extension two years ago, and Antonio Brown getting traded this offseason because of his diva characteristics. Bottom line: it wasn't working with the Steelers "Killer Bees" and they had to move on.
The root of the Steelers problems though comes not from within their own locker room. It comes from the success of the New England Patriots. The Pats have been in the Super Bowl in four of the last five years. They have beaten the Steelers four out of the last five matchups. When you cannot get over the hump against one specific team, that will cause frustration within the locker room obviously but also frustration within management.
They will want to make changes. For Pittsburgh, this is exactly what happened. Two different kinds of vocalized frustration: One by management and one inside the locker room. The Le'Veon frustration was vocalized by management: "Why am I giving him all this guaranteed money? We haven't won!" The result was a standoff and Le'Veon sitting out an ENTIRE season. The Brown frustration was vocalized by the player inside the locker room. He forced his way to a trade because he thought he was better than the losing and he felt the blame was being put on him. Regardless, the Steelers are dysfunctional and it ended with two of their superstars moving on. It all stems from the Patriots being so darn good.
In my previous article I indicated how I hoped the Rockets would not turn into this. Houston's struggles against Golden State are very similar to the Steelers struggles against the Patriots. Both teams are very very good and very capable of winning a title in a normal situation. But the NFL and NBA era we are in right now are not normal. We DO have dynasties going on. The Warriors and Patriots are that good and because of that there will be sacrificial lambs that continue to not have the kryptonite required to get past these super teams.
So let's get to this Yahoo report by Vincent Goodwill, outlining the Rockets dysfunction. I will list the most powerful quotes I found in the article.
1.) “The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season.”
The biggest thing in any relationship is communication. I am fortunate right now to be in a very healthy relationship and I can tell you the first thing I told my current girlfriend when we decided to get serious is that I am going to tell her everything. I'm going to express anger, sadness, disappointment, every single emotion I feel and because of that I will be a completely open book. In exchange for that complete honesty, I expect honesty in return which she may not like all the time.
However, she will know what I'm thinking whether it be how much I love her or how much she is frustrating me in the moment. I did this because in previous relationships I have not been transparent and my partner has not been transparent with me and it did not work out. I've had a few relationships end in a very ugly way so I was just done with the "games." We argue our fair share over stupid stuff, but the foundation is solid because we communicate. The Rockets foundation clearly was not solid if Chris Paul and James Harden, the super stars, were not communicating.
2.) “There’s no respect at all, on either side.”
Oh boy. The foundation of any relationship starts with respect and trust. When Chris Paul first came to Houston I was so impressed with how it worked so well so fast. James Harden was coming off a career season as being the point guard. He was SO GOOD with the ball in his hands, and I really questioned how it was going to work to have two dominant ball control guys on the same team. Honestly, it is the most impressive thing about Golden State. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and one ball.
I respect the hell out of Steph so much more than Russell Westbrook because he was ok accepting Kevin Durant into his world and sacrificing shots for the good of the team. Clearly that is hard for some people. What's funny and interesting about the Rockets situation is that it seemed like it was WORKING. Harden and Paul on the surface (literally on the surface of the basketball court) worked so well together. However when you read "Harden's ball dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul" it makes you really question how it ever did work
3.) "The situation is indeed bad, a source said, and players are frustrated with the system and surprised that D’Antoni trusts Harden so much that he allows such leeway on the court.”
So Chris Paul will not be a Rocket next year. This is now clear. We now must start looking ahead at the future and this is quote is NOT good. Lets break this down into two parts.
Frustration with the System-
I have said for a while that this system is off. They look like a 13 year old playing a video game far too often with all the three point shots taken. The one thing Chris Paul did bring is the element of a mid range game. That is his bread and butter, he likes to take the 17 foot jumper and he likes to find the high percentage shot for his teammates (ally-oops). So outside of him and Harden working well together, I thought it was going to be interesting how Paul blended into this "system" D'Antoni has going back to his days with the Suns. I don't know if there will be a coaching change next season, but I think at the very least there needs to be a coaching adjustment.
Based off this reporting, Chris Paul is not the only player in that locker room who feels that "James Harden hero ball" is the way to win. If you care about the Rockets, you probably have felt this way as well at times. Harden is such a tremendous isolation player. He is similar to Westbrook in the sense that he demands the ball so much, however I believe Harden is the better player because he is more under control. I can definitely see how this style can be irritating to play with for a guy like Chris Paul who requires the basketball a ton.
The question now becomes where do the Rockets go from here? With the Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant injuries, there is definitely a window for another team making the NBA Finals next year out of the West. The Lakers have been aggressive and made their move in acquiring Anthony Davis. How will the Rockets handle getting rid of Paul? They will have difficulties trading his contract, as he is due $38.5 million next year, $41.3 million the year after that and then $44.2 million. He is not a "Tier 1" player yet he is making "Tier 1" money.
That is absolutely awful and makes him nearly untradeable. Yet here we are with him demanding a trade. My opinion is that whoever lands him will be getting a bargain because the Rockets simply cannot demand equivalent value back due to the age, the injuries and the contract. This will rattle Daryl Morey because he is usually the one taking advantage of other teams in deals. It will be very interesting to see how this situation manifests, but one thing is certain. The best team in NBA history is a major reason why this Rockets team may in fact implode. Their willingness to sacrifice as individuals has bred success and created a winning culture. The Rockets and Warriors peaked at the exact same time, however one has been Batman, the other Robin.