For the last five years, the Warriors and Rockets have produced one of the NBA's best rivalries, providing some of the league's best moments.
"It's funny that both sides look at the other one like the villain," Chriss said on the Runnin' Plays podcast.
Chriss, now in the final stretch of his first season in Golden State, played just over three months in Houston during the 2018-19 season after getting traded from the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 2018. He averaged 1.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.4 assists in limited minutes during that stretch before he was traded at the 2019 deadline to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now with the Warriors, he says both teams view each other in a similar light.
"They bicker about both sides, which is fun. It's competitive, it makes basketball fun, Chriss said. "But at the end of the day, both teams want to win. That's the biggest thing."
The disdain between the Warriors and Rockets is well-earned. Since 2015, the two teams have faced off four times in the postseason, with Golden State winning every series. In the 2018 Western Conference Finals, the Rockets, led by James Harden and Chris Paul, took a three-games-to-two lead over the Warriors before squandering the series after Paul injured his hamstring.
One year later, Golden State took down Houston again, this time in the second round of the playoffs. Despite a Game 5 injury to Kevin Durant, the Warriors closed out Houston in six games on the road. Along the way, the Rockets routinely stated the Warriors were their biggest adversary. Following the 2018 playoff loss, the team adopted the motto "Run it Back" in hopes of playing the Warriors again. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey even said his team was "obsessed" with the Warriors.
All the while, Golden State has complained about Harden's style of play. One of the league's top scorers, Harden frequently gets to the free-throw line and has been accused of baiting officials into getting calls. During their last postseason matchup, Green complained about Harden's tendency to flare his arms after getting elbowed by the guard during a jump shot. Nonetheless, Chriss said he appreciates his former teammate's style of play.
"I like it, I'm not going to lie to you. Watching him do it up close, it's a technique to that," Chriss said. "It's not like he's just out there throwing the ball up. Sometimes it might look like it, but it's a lot of gamesmanship, I think, to the way that he plays. And he's mastered the rules, I think, is something that you could say. And he understands how to draw contact."
"It ain't like he's just out there throwing his body around," Chriss added. "He's throwing his body into you. And then he's getting it. I think it's one of those things. It's not really to where he's taking advantage of the game. I think the game just has to catch up to him."
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Chriss got to see Harden's exploits up close during his brief stint in Houston. In Harden's first two months of the 2018-19 season, he averaged more than 36 points and eight assists, including a 61-point, 15-rebound performance against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
One of The Beard's best performances came against the Warriors on Jan. 3, 2019, when he scored 44 points, helping the Rockets overcome a double-digit second-half deficit. In overtime, he made a game-winning 3-pointer over Green with 2.7 seconds left as Chriss watched from the bench.
"He was on a different level," Chriss said. "I don't think really anybody understood how or why, but he just turned it up. People were getting hurt and he locked in. And I've honestly never seen anybody take over that many basketball games in that type of way."
"He's a great player, he added. "That's why I think people need to appreciate it. Because once they're done playing, it's too late. You can't really appreciate what they were doing. And I think that's the biggest thing for us right now, is just to appreciate all the great players that we're getting to witness live right now."
Shortly after Harden's outburst, the Rockets traded Chriss to Cleveland. By the summer, he was a free agent, mulling over two-way deals. On the eve of the 2019-20 NBA season, he signed a non-guaranteed deal with Golden State. Two months later, he played against his former team on Christmas Day, finishing with six points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. Chriss' contributions helped Golden State upset his former team 116-104, all while living out a lifelong dream.
"I was more nervous playing on Christmas than I think I was to play them. I really didn't even care who we played, he said. "It was just like, damn, I finally get to play on Christmas. I have been on teams where I didn't really get to play. Being on a team where I got to play and contribute on Christmas was pretty dope. And I think it was just added to it that it was Houston."
Why Warriors' Marquese Chriss vouches for James Harden's style of play originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area