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Rockets’ Ime Udoka Explains Why They Signed Fred VanVleet Over Reuniting With James Harden

It’s quite unusual to see an NBA coach publicly explain their decision to sign one player over another, but Houston Rockets’ coach Ime Udoka did just that, and it made headlines.

Udoka, in his debut season with the Rockets, openly discussed their pursuit of former Raptors guard Fred VanVleet in free agency and why they chose him over reuniting with James Harden.

One of the initial factors in favor of VanVleet was the Rockets’ belief in his off-ball skills, which they considered a positive trait and a better fit for the team.

MORE : Josh Bostic Joins Ime Udoka’s Coaching Team as Player Development Coach

This decision also allowed the young core of the team to continue handling the ball frequently, as reported by ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

Udoka clarified that his preference for Fred VanVleet over James Harden was solely based on fit for the team’s young players, emphasizing that he never expressed a desire to exclude Harden but rather focused on finding the best fit.

“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.” Lowe wrote

This decision was rooted in the Rockets’ belief in VanVleet’s off-ball skills, which they deemed a more favorable asset for the team.

Furthermore, it will allow the younger players on the team to maintain their ball-handling responsibilities.

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