James Harden was heavily linked to his old team Houston for months before he picked up his player option with Philly, and it seems all the rumors weren’t cap.
The Rockets opted to sign Raptors point guard Fred Van Vleet in free agency over the summer.
But new head coach Ime Udoka admitted there was a decision being made between FVV and Harden.
“Nothing against James,” Udoka told ESPN, “but 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.”
As well as Udoka confirming there was some truth to the Houston rumors, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith citied sources about the situation that unfolded over the summer.
He explained that the Rockets did in fact offer Harden a four-year max contract, but Harden’s message to the franchise put them off welcoming him back.
“I got tipped off last week by a very reliable source about something that happened in Houston a few months ago,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take.“The Houston Rockets were talking to James Harden, thinking about bringing him back after Ime Udoka was brought in. James Harden, this is what I’m told and I haven’t confirmed it with him [Harden], he actually talked himself out of a max-deal because he went in there talking about how he wanted to return to being the scoring champion.
“Ime Udoka and the Rockets thought ‘No, we ain’t trying to have that here. We’re building something a little bit different.’ Had he come in there and said the right things, they would have given him a max-four-year deal. He talked himself out of his own max-deal.”
Since then, Harden has become increasingly disgruntled with the Sixers front office staff since they haven’t traded him like they promised.
As a small protest, the 10-time All-Star didn’t show up to media day or the first day of training camp, but has since joined the team for practice.
Likely because he doesn’t want to lose millions of dollars in fines.