NBA Rumors: The Houston Rockets reportedly cooled on the idea of James Harden after an initial offseason move.
At several points last season, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that James Harden was going to make a return to the Houston Rockets in free agency. The Rockets had plenty of cap space and Harden was looking for a new landing spot; the two seemed like a great pairing.
However, at some point, that changed abruptly. Instead of signing Harden, the Rockets pivoted to Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks instead. Harden also seemed to pivot away from that original plan when he decided to opt into the final year of his contract just before the start of free agency.
The question is, why was there a sudden change?
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Rockets cooled their interest in Harden and shifted their position on bringing back the All-Star guard after the hiring of new head coach Ime Udoka. He wanted to set a new foundation and culture in Houston that didn’t involve Harden.
New head coach Ime Udoka wanted to go a different path with the Houston Rockets
It’s not entirely surprising that Udoka, who coached Harden during the 2020-21 NBA season during their time with the Brooklyn Nets, wanted to take a different path during his first year with the Rockets.
For as great of a player as Harden was during his time in Houston, I’m not sure it made the most sense to bring him back at this point in his career. Houston has one of the most talented young rosters in the league and I’m not sure Harden is the exact leader that you want for this era of Rockets basketball.
If it’s true that the Rockets changed their tune in their interest for Harden as soon as Udoka was hired, it does fall in line with this entire Harden saga. After all, the Udoka hiring happened just before the start of the offseason. That’s exactly when it was reported that instead of opting out to test free agency, that Harden was going to opt in and work with the Sixers to find a trade.
There’s a very real possibility that Harden was set on making a return to Houston before Udoka was hired. It’s a testament to how quickly things can change in the NBA business.