Chris Paul made his much-anticipated debut with the Houston Rockets Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the All-Star point guard and his new superstar backcourt mate, James Harden, showed some early glimpses of what’s to come this year.
Paul finished with 11 points, seven assists and no turnovers while Harden registered 16 points and 10 assists.
The Rockets were flying up and down the court off makes and misses by the Thunder, with Paul and Harden alternating the floor general role and dishing it out to Houston’s bevy of 3-point shooters.
Before the game, Paul told reporters he’s getting sick of the pundits saying there’s no way two ball dominant guards can play with each other and flourish.
Paul views that take as a lazy narrative the media tried to create because they don’t watch enough basketball. The 12-year veteran says Houston’s biggest naysayers will have to find something else to condemn, as Paul and Harden view their pairing as a grand luxury.
“I hate to say this, but somebody who says that, they obviously don’t watch enough,” Paul told The Vertical. “Somebody will say, ‘ball-dominant,’ but at the end of the day, you’re called on to do what your team needs you to do.
“The thing is, having the ability to have a guy who can create off the dribble and stuff like that is nice and great. I know how hard that can be, coming down, having to create so many plays on a nightly basis. That’s something me and James talked about; being able to deviate some of that pressure.”
Both Paul and Harden are accustomed to having high usage rates and being the primary offensive generator in crunch time. The two stars worked out together this summer to speed up the chemistry process, which is why Tuesday’s exhibition opener felt natural to Paul.
“It felt natural,” said Paul when asked what it was like playing with Harden for the first time. “We played a lot this summer, and I think that helped, spending that time talking about communicating and stuff like that. But we can always get better. It’s too much fun, man. One thing I’ve always said is, I can get somebody an open shot.”
Harden added Paul’s game has been on such an extraordinary level over the past decade that this year CP3’s job and burden is going to be easier.
“We’ve all watched him for the last 12, 13 years,” Harden said of Paul. “Now he has probably more space than he’s ever had. With the pick-and-roll, and you have three, four shooters around you, it’s going to make his game a lot easier.”