For the majority of the past year or so, a potential James Harden reunion with the Houston Rockets has been floated out by reputable NBA insiders, one of which was ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowkski. But that possibility became less and less enticing for the Rockets in the aftermath of their hiring of Ime Udoka as the team's new head coach.
According to Stephen A. Smith on ESPN's First Take, it was Udoka who shot down the possibility of the Rockets signing Harden in free agency — instead preferring to surround the team's youngsters with more defensively-inclined players such as Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks.
“The Houston Rockets were talking to James Harden, thinking about bringing him back after Ime Udoka was brought there. James Harden, this is what I was told, actually talked himself out of a max deal because he went in there talking about how he wanted to return to being that scoring champion. And Ime Udoka was like, ‘Nah. We ain't trying to have that here. We building something a little different.'”
"This is what I was told, [James Harden] actually talked himself out of a max deal because he went in there talking about how he wanted to return to being that scoring champion [with the Rockets]. And Ime Udoka was like, 'Nah.'"
– Stephen A. Smith 👀pic.twitter.com/OitaUvkdfQ
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) October 4, 2023
Given how many injuries James Harden has suffered through the years since his Rockets departure in 2021, it's fair to wonder whether the version of himself who averaged 36 points per game back in 2019 still exists. Moreover, focusing on restoring his former personal glory instead of buying into whatever Udoka wanted simply would not have sat well with the Rockets brass.
Now, Harden himself is feeling the repercussions of his reported hubris. Instead of getting the huge contract he desires from the Rockets, he now remains stuck with the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that reportedly pounced on this newfound leverage by lowballing The Beard in contract talks.
This, in turn, has angered James Harden, leading him to ask for a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, which hasn't yet materialized. Harden has gone scorched earth in the process, calling Daryl Morey a liar and tarnishing his reputation even further in the eyes of the Sixers franchise and the rest of the league. In essence, Harden is the architect of his own downfall, if Stephen A. Smith's words are to be believed.