Paul joins Harden in Houston » Manila Bulletin Sports

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Los Angeles – Chris Paul was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in the first major NBA talent move of the off-season with free agency looming Saturday.

The 32-year-old point guard, who helped the United States win Olympic gold in 2008 at Beijing and 2012 at London, joins shooting guard James Harden in what might be the NBA’s most dynamic backcourt next season.

Former Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, right, and James Harden of the Houston Rockets, left, have joined forces at Houston. Will the guy in the middle in this file photo – Carmelo Anthony of New York – make it a Big 3?

Former Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, right, and James Harden of the Houston Rockets, left, have joined forces at Houston. Will the guy in the middle in this file photo – Carmelo Anthony of New York – make it a Big 3?

In exchange, the Rockets sent the Clippers seven players – Sam Dekker, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Wiltjer – plus a 2018 first-round NBA Draft pick and $661,000.

”Any day you can acquire a Hall of Fame-level player is a good day for the franchise,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said.

”It’s a weapons race in the NBA and you’re either in the weapons race or on the sidelines. We felt with Harden in his prime, Chris Paul in his prime, this gives us a real shot to chase the juggernaut teams that are out there and puts us right there with them.”

That’s a remark aimed at the Golden State Warriors, who added forward Kevin Durant to star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and won the NBA crown this year, downing a Cleveland team in the final led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

While players and teams can begin free agency talks, no deals can be signed until July 6.

The Rockets, who won NBA crowns in 1994 and 1995, have not suffered a losing season since 2005-06 but have reached the Western Conference final only once in 20 years, losing that to eventual champion Golden State in 2015.

”Since winning back-to-back championships, the pursuit of a third title has remained the ultimate goal for our franchise,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said.

”We feel that combining two of the league’s greatest players in James Harden and Chris Paul, operating in Coach (Mike) D’Antoni’s system, gives us a championship caliber team that will compete at the highest level for years to come.”

Las Vegas oddsmakers trimmed the Rockets’ odds of winning next year’s NBA crown from 30-1 to 15-1 after the move was revealed while dropping the Clippers’ chances from 40-1 to 100-1.

ESPN reported the Rockets would attempt to land forward Paul George, who has said he wants to leave Indiana and is being eyed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland among others.

Paul thanked the Clippers’ organization and fans on his Twitter page.

”Unbelievable amount of emotions right now — I don’t even know what to say,” Paul wrote. ”Lots of love and tears. I’m so blessed and thankful for the ability to play this game, this is the part that no one can prepare you for.”

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