‣ Rockets coach Ime Udoka had to choose between signing James Harden or Fred VanVleet
‣ Udoka chose VanVleet as a better fit for the team
‣ Harden talked himself out of a max deal with the Rockets by expressing his desire to be a scoring champion again
Rockets coach Ime Udoka explained why the team chose to sign Fred VanVleet over pursuing James Harden
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow)
Ever since James Harden requested a trade out of Philadelphia, there has been speculation about where he would end up. Many insiders believed he would either join the Clippers or return to Houston. It has now been confirmed that these rumors were true, as new Rockets coach Ime Udoka revealed that he had to choose between signing Harden or Fred VanVleet.
Udoka, who is about to enter his first season in Texas, discussed the team’s pursuit of VanVleet in an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe. He explained that VanVleet’s ability to work without the ball made him a better fit for the team than Harden. He emphasized that the rumors of not wanting Harden were untrue and that it was simply a matter of fit.
Udoka stated, “Nothing against James… Fred is just a better fit. I coached James in Brooklyn. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. The words ‘Ime doesn’t want James’ never came out of my mouth. It was, ‘Let’s look at the best fit.’ If we want Jalen and the young guys to take the next steps, we need them to have the ball. As for me saying I don’t want James, that was never the case. It was about fit.”
Stephen A. Smith also shared some insight on why things didn’t work out for Harden’s potential comeback to Houston. He reported that Harden talked himself out of a max deal by expressing his desire to return to being a scoring champion. The Rockets were not interested in that kind of approach and were looking to build something different. Smith believes that if Harden had said the right things, he would have received a max four-year deal.
Despite the ongoing trade rumors, Harden decided to report back to Philadelphia’s training camp and reunite with his teammates. While the Sixers are reportedly not negotiating with any interested team at the moment, Smith mentioned Miami as a potential landing spot for Harden. He believes the Heat could benefit from someone with his skill set.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Harden’s first practice session with the Sixers went smoothly, and he seemed happy to be back training with his teammates. The situation in Philadelphia appears to be returning to normal, although Harden still expects to be traded before the start of the season.