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Report: Ime Udoka squashed James Harden’s return to the Rockets

Houston’s new head coach squashed The Beard’s potential return, according to ESPN.

2023 NBA Playoffs- Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Many of y’all already figured this to be the case, but we finally got some confirmation from a major media source when ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported in her article yesterday that it was new Houston Rockets head coach Ime Udoka who squashed James Harden’s potential return to H-town this offseason.

Harden was reportedly very interested in coming back to the Rockets — though there were many (myself included) who felt he was using Houston for leverage in his contract issues with the Philadelphia 76ers — but the interest was said by the rumor mill to be mutual between Harden and the Rockets.

But according to Shelburne, it was important for Udoka to focus on defense and moving forward with the culture, two ideas Harden didn’t exactly fit with. She said:

The Rockets’ interest in reacquiring him as a free agent cooled after they hired Ime Udoka as their head coach in late April, sources said. Udoka was trying to set a new culture in Houston, not bring back the past. He wanted to target defensive-minded players like Memphis’ Dillon Brooks and Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez.

But free agency came and went and The Beard never opted out, deciding to stay with the 76ers and has subsequently dealt with some major fallout in his relationship with former pal and ex-Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who captains the ship in Philly.

As we know from Harden’s years in Houston, the total package with The Beard was never smooth sailing, though I don’t know if anyone completely expected Harden’s fallout with Morey, as it was the analytics guru who had the faith in The Beard to begin with to not only turn him into a superstar from a sixth man, but also entrust him with the keys to an NBA offense by turning him into a point guard.

But with Harden publicly calling Morey a liar, that relationship appears to be pretty much over, and with Shelburne’s report about Harden pouting when he didn’t make the NBA All-Star Game, not travelling with the team in order to “enjoy nightlife” and once again trying to force his way out of a city, I’m just glad it’s someone else’s problem now. With NBA Training Camp less than a month away, anyone think we might see the fat suit again?