Sources: Chris Paul wants out as relationship with James Harden deemed ‘unsalvageable’

The delicate relationship between Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul has been termed “unsalvageable” and the star players want a divorce, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Paul went to Rockets management and demanded a trade, and Harden issued a “him or me” edict following the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors, sources said.

The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise.

Harden hasn’t returned Paul’s repeated attempts at communicating this offseason, sources said, after a year in which the pair repeatedly got under each other’s skin with petty acts in practices and games.

Paul has been known to clash with teammates during his career, most notably with the Los Angeles Clippers before being traded to Houston in the summer of 2017. Up until this season, his production ranked among the best at his position in NBA history, but he’s had to curtail his style while acclimating to Harden’s pace.

“There’s no respect at all, on either side,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn’t respect James’ standing in the league, and James doesn’t respect the work Chris has put in to this point.”

See the two together on the Houston Rockets: 

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Chris Paul and James Harden together on the Rockets
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Chris Paul and James Harden together on the Rockets
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: James Harden #13 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets react to a call by the referee during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 02: James Harden #13 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets look on during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on April 2, 2019 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul #3 react as they both foul out during a 111-106 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on February 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: James Harden #13 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets (R) talk on the bench in the first half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 24: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul #3 talk on the sidelines during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on November 24, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 04: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul #3 during warm ups before playing the Indiana Pacers at Toyota Center on October 4, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 25: (L-R) Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Nene attend the 2018 NBA Awards at Barkar Hangar on June 25, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Turner Sports)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 10: James Harden (L) and Chris Paul attend Summer Jam 2018 at MetLife Stadium on June 10, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 25: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets talks with Chris Paul #3 in the second half during Game Five of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Toyota Center on April 25, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 18: Chris Paul #3 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets look on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 18, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 26: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets stands on the court during a NBA game against the Houston Rockets at the Smoothie King Center on January 26, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 22: James Harden #13 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets celebrate after Paul made a three-point shot late in the fourth quarter Miami Heat at Toyota Center on January 22, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul, left, and guard James Harden look on during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Houston Rockets' Chris Paul (3) speaks with James Harden (13) in the second half during Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Monday, April 22, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Houston Rockets guard James Harden, left, talks with teammate Chris Paul as they walk off the court during a timeout in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. The Rockets won 130-105. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Houston Rockets' James Harden, left, and Chris Paul (3) talk on the court in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Sunday, March 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Houston Rockets guard James Harden, right, talks with guard Chris Paul during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Paul’s injury-related absences and grating personality have annoyed Harden, sources said.

If not for Paul’s hamstring injury in the 2018 Western Conference finals, the Rockets might have dethroned the then-champion Golden State Warriors instead of losing in seven games. Paul then signed a four-year, $160 million deal that owner Tillman Fertitta has complained about ever since, sources said, and Paul’s subsequent injury-riddled season — he played 58 regular-season games for the second consecutive year — created even more frustration.

Paul’s production also has fallen off as he shot a career-low 41.9 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range, his lowest mark since 2012-13.

Harden’s ball-dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul, leading to the nine-time All-Star issuing his trade demand to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after the season.

Sources said Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni about the offense bogging down after Harden would ask to come into the game to join the second unit, with Paul heading to the bench.

“It can’t be fixed,” another league source told Yahoo Sports about the Harden-Paul partnership.

The situation is indeed bad, a source said, and the players are frustrated with the system and surprised that D'Antoni trusts Harden so much that he allows such leeway on the court.

Morey has been shopping Paul and others in an attempt to revamp the roster, but Paul’s contract, which calls for him to earn $38.5 million, $41.3 million and $44.2 million the next three seasons, is hard for other teams to swallow.

The Rockets have been at the center of controversy the past several weeks, from Fertitta’s contract standoff with D’Antoni, to coaching staff turnover, to accusations of him demanding the team get under the luxury-tax threshold despite pursuing a championship.

With the Warriors’ present and future in doubt because of injuries to free agents Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, it would seem like the perfect opportunity for the Rockets to move forward, but Paul has made it known he’d like to play elsewhere.

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