Among the five interim jobs, the Knicks (Kurt Rambis), Timberwolves (Sam Mitchell) and Suns (Earl Watson) are expected to give the incumbents strong looks, sources say. Barring something unforeseen, Tony Brown in Brooklyn and J.B. Bickerstaff in Houston will be moving on.
The Houston situation is fascinating, as league sources say GM Daryl Morey and James Harden share an interest in Brooks, who is said to be hesitant due to uncertainty over whether Dwight Howard will, in fact, opt out and become a free agent. But the mere thought of Brooks reuniting with Harden could send shivers all the way to Oklahoma City. Will Kevin Durant see it as an opportunity to put most of the band back together? The missing piece, of course, would be lead guitarist Russell Westbrook, and you can't have a band without a lead guitarist. Still, there are enough pieces in place there to make you go, "Hmmm." A lot of interested parties will be watching.
Multiple league sources told CBS Sports that Harden pushed management to dump McHale, and has since angled for the Rockets to trade Howard. Rockets GM Daryl Morey delivered on the first demand, but was unable to find a suitable deal for Howard at the trade deadline this month.
"J.B. is a young, smart coach who is strong defensively and strong with player relationships," Morey told ESPN.com. "He's forward-thinking but has experience for many years in the NBA as well. So he's grounded."
Bickerstaff knows how it goes for young coaches – never mind young African-American ones. Assistants traditionally get bad teams, with bad odds for staying power. “Let’s face it,” Bickerstaff told Yahoo, “first-time assistant coaches normally don’t walk into jobs with two perennial All-Stars on a team that just got bounced in the Western finals. Normally, they get a job in the middle of a year, playing for lottery balls. I’m fortunate, very fortunate. You don’t win without talent, but your talent has to have purpose.”
Q: Can J.B. win this job? Leslie Alexander: Of course he can. If the team responds to him and we win, of course he can.
Q: What do you like about J.B. Bickerstaff? Leslie Alexander: We spoke to him, and we think he’s a good young coach with a lot of experience. He is on the defensive end, which we really need a lot of help on. We have a good offensive coordinator [Chris Finch], so at the same time we have both. J.B. has a good relationship with the players, which I think is very important. If they didn't know him, it would be tough in the adjustment process. Now it’s much quicker.
Sources say Bickerstaff, son of respected, long-time NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, will have an opportunity to earn the permanent job. Depending on whether the Rockets are able to right their season, there will be no shortage of other candidates.
That's interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff's job now, along with fixing Houston's no-effort defense and mending what league sources describe as conflicting priorities between the front office and the coaching staff. "Is this the first crack in the analytics revolution, where they start hanging the revolutionaries themselves?" a person in the coaching business asked Wednesday. "[The Rockets] still haven't figured out chemistry. They keep adding and adding, but none of it fits."
It's certainly not too late for the Rockets to turn things around, which was the impetus for what sources described as an agonizing decision to fire McHale, who agreed to a three-year extension less than a year ago. "I dare you to find a better person than Kevin McHale," said a coaching agent who doesn't even represent him.
As Morey made clear, Bickerstaff will have a legitimate chance to make his mark here. But if the losing continues, Morey's history of being aggressive is almost certain to continue and it remains possible that the Rockets could make another change. To that end, one interesting name is Scott Brooks.
The former Oklahoma City Thunder coach not only has a positive history with Harden, but a storied history with the Rockets from his playing days (he was the backup point guard on their 1994 championship team). But according to a person with knowledge of Brooks’ situation, it’s more likely that he will wait until the summer to see what’s next on the job front. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of Brooks’ situation.
Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been named interim head coach, and potential candidates to replace McHale, according to Wojnarowski, include Tom Thibodeau, Charlotte's Steve Clifford and Jeff Van Gundy, Stan's brother. "Well, he lives right there and he's been with them," Stan Van Gundy said. "They liked him for a while and then they didn't like him. It's the same ownership. I don't know if they like him again or what. Obviously, he'd be great, but I don't have any idea where that stands."
September 25, 2021 | 3:23 am EDT Update
Sources maintain the Cavs don’t have any “untouchables.” However, prized rookie Evan Mobley and rising point guard Darius Garland are closest to that designation. The likelihood of either player being moved is incredibly low. That leaves Collin Sexton, Isaac Okoro and future first-rounders to help cajole a Simmons deal.
LaVine is eligible for an extension but he likely won’t sign it. This is solely because the four-year, $105 million extension he is currently eligible for is far below the projected five-year, $207 million maximum contract he can re-sign with the Bulls for next summer. While Chicago could’ve used cap space to renegotiate LaVine’s $19.5 million salary to a maximum salary and extend him for an additional four years, they correctly utilized their flexibility to build the best possible team they can around him.
Even if the Bulls fail to make the playoffs again, he is still a good bet to re-sign with them given how little cap space there is elsewhere. Vucevic is also currently eligible for an extension worth up to three years, $85.5 million. He can only sign it during the offseason.
According to sources, the 76ers would want limited or no protections on those firsts in hopes of flipping them for an All-Star caliber player around the deadline. That, alone, would be incredibly risky for Cleveland — a still-rebuilding team that’s won 60 combined games over the last three years and is only projected to win around 26 this season. Even the addition of Simmons wouldn’t change the 2021-22 forecast that much, as the Cavs wouldn’t have enough short-term floor-spacers or shooters around the limited Simmons. Any deal would mean rejiggering the roster quite a bit.
Because Gupta has been elevated from inside the organization, it is conceivable that the Wolves can move right along and continue their talks with the Sixers without much of a diversion. Gupta and Morey worked together for years in Houston so there is background there, and sources say Gupta was involved in some of the talks with the Sixers earlier this summer before the conflict with Rosas reached its head.
The Raptors acquired Dragic in exchange for Lowry and his status with them has been reported as potentially headed towards a buyout. While Dragic is too talented to simply be waived, the Raptors will be hard-pressed to find a team eager to pay him $19 million this season. He could be headed towards a buyout if he’s still on the roster past thetrade deadline. Alternatively, he could be used as salary ballast as part of a larger deal and then subsequently bought out by his new team.
According to a report from Superbasket, free-agent big man Greg Monroe is among the names that Virtus Bologna is considering after the injury of Ekpe Udoh, who’ll most likely be sidelined for the season. Monroe spent last season with Khimki in Russia, averaging 16 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in VTB League.