The last time Chris Paul took the floor of the Toyota Center, the Houston Rockets endured a 118-113 loss to a short-handed Golden State Warriors team in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. In the loss, Paul’s 27 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists marked his best performance of the series, but it was not enough to keep Houston from another post-season exit at the hands of Golden State.
Following the game, a somber Paul took the podium with no explanation of how the Rockets can improve from their most recent failure when asked by a local reporter. Although his offseason began trying to figure out different ways to get the Rockets over the hump, Paul’s personal resolution to Houston’s problems surely never involved a trade that sent him to Oklahoma City in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
At 34-years-old, Paul’s best days are certainly behind him, and he may have only a handful of memorable performances left playing in his 15th season in the league. Despite his age, Paul’s competitive spirit still runs deep, and one can expect the future Hall-of-Famer to put on a show in his return to Houston on Monday, when the Rockets welcome the Thunder to the Toyota Center.
Since they arrived in OKC from Seattle, the Thunder have matched up with the Rockets to produce some of the most entertaining games in recent history — whether it be in regular-season or playoffs. Although this will not be the first time the two franchises got together following a blockbuster deal, this Rockets-Thunder matchup will add more fuel to the rivalry with emotions likely running at an all-time high.
On one hand, there is Russell Westbrook.
After 12 seasons in Oklahoma City, Westbrook will see the orange, yellow and blue as the opposition for the first time in his career. Although many of his former teammates are gone, Westbrook may look to make a strong statement against the Thunder’s General Manager, Sam Presti — who failed to keep three MVPs together over a total of $4 million.
OKC having 3 future MVPs is still wild. pic.twitter.com/ezjebDPAtN— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) June 25, 2019
On the other, there is the long-awaited James Harden versus CP3.
Since their post-season elimination to the Warriors, much has been said about the relationship between Harden and Paul. What seemed to be a perfect marriage, as the two former teammates appeared on several State Farm commercials, quickly ended in a messy divorce headlined by a reportedly “unsalvageable relationship”.
Chris Paul and James Harden are having a hissy fight here pic.twitter.com/IufNq8pHWy— DailySportsDosage (@OfficalDSD) June 18, 2019
If there is any truth to the locker room tension that once existed between Harden and Paul, one should anticipate an emotional reunion.
The on-court battle against Harden is only one aspect of what could make this a chippy return for Paul, as the nine-time All-Star looks to prove his worth to Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta. After all, it was Morey and Fertitta who decided to depart from the aging star guard for a five-percent increase to win a championship title.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and Paul will likely return with a vengeance in his first visit to Houston. With three high-caliber guys, all with ties to the opposing team, playing with emotions running high, someone is sure to have a legendary performance in what could be an instant classic.
To witness Chris Paul’s revenge game against the Houston Rockets live, visit StubHub.com to reserve your ticket.
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