That likely will be only the start. Morey disputed the depiction of the Rockets’ chemistry problems, saying that they were no greater than is typical when teams play badly and that the chemistry was no worse this season than it was good with the same players last season. But anyone privy to all those team meetings could describe dysfunction that will have to be addressed. Next season’s coach will have to demand or inspire that kind of change and likely will have to convince Morey, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and CEO Tad Brown that he can turn the Rockets into a team built to win in the postseason.
The source also said Lue currently has no interest in any of the current head-coaching vacancies around the league in Houston, New York, Sacramento or the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise he started his career with as a rookie point guard in 1998-99.
Mark Berman: Daryl Morey says #Rockets will conduct thorough search for head coach & JB Bickerstaff will be "under consideration" https://t.co/5127rksTSx
Mark Berman: Daryl Morey says the #Rockets head coach search will be thorough and "we're not going to do something quickly." https://t.co/CwtQa5y4vB
Mark Berman: NBA sources confirm #Rockets received permission from Golden State to interview Warriors assistant Luke Walton.
Sam Amick: As @MarcJSpearsESPN noted, the Rockets (like the Lakers) have received permission to speak with Luke Walton. The Kings, I'm told, have not.
Marc J. Spears: After being eliminated by GSW, Rockets received permission to interview asst. coach Luke Walton for coach job, sources told @TheUndefeated.
Alexander and Morey believe that Harden will play a role in helping to hire a coach and potentially sign free agents. Howard is not expected to have a role.
Ira Winderman: Jeff Van Gundy very much sounding like someone who can fix the Rockets. "Mama, there goes that. . . " next Rockets coach?
The Rockets, sources said, were optimistic as recently as Monday that Brooks would wait until their job is officially open before making any decisions. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy was the co-favorite with Brooks in Houston.
Brian Geltzeiler: Hearing that JVG to Houston would be to work WITH Morey, as opposed to getting the power to bring in his own GM....
Sources told ESPN.com that the Wizards, cognizant that the Houston Rockets are a potential threat to pursue Brooks once their postseason ends, have ramped up their efforts to take Brooks off the market with a five-year offer believed to be in the $30 million to $35 million range.
The Rockets, sources said, were optimistic as recently as Monday that Brooks would wait until their job is officially open before making any decisions. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy is the co-favorite with Brooks in Houston and, according to sources, he would be highly interested in returning to the Rockets if the job were to come open as expected.
Jeff Van Gundy has been the Houston Rockets’ No. 1 choice, but he is unwilling to talk to the organization while a coach – in this instance, J.B. Bickerstaff – is in place, sources said. Houston and Van Gundy are expected to engage once the Rockets are eliminated from the playoffs and see if there is a chance for them to partner for a second time, league sources said.
Marc Stein: As ESPN reported earlier today, Rockets officials are hopeful Scotty Brooks will hold off and still be on the market when their job opens.
Marc Stein: One more Rockets note: Sources say Jeff Van Gundy would indeed be highly interested in a return to Houston if that job opens up as expected.
Sources say Van Gundy remains the top co-candidate in Houston alongside former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scotty Brooks, who is the runaway top candidate in the Washington Wizards' search for a new coach.
Sources say that the Rockets are hopeful Brooks will wait until Houston' s season is over before taking a new job, and the Wizards are expected to press Brooks to fill their vacancy while the Rockets remain alive in a first-round series against the 73-win Golden State Warriors.
Marc Stein: With Tom Thibodeau nearing final agreement on a Minnesota deal, Jeff Van Gundy remains Houston's top co-candidate alongside Scotty Brooks.
Jeff Van Gundy is at the top of the Houston Rockets’ list of potential candidates, league sources said. Jeff Van Gundy resigned as Rockets coach in 2007 after four seasons and still lives in Houston.
Alexander said he will evaluate the status of interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff once the season ends but praised the coach by saying, “he’s got a winning record (37-34) which is good from where he started with.”
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."
October 18, 2021 | 7:16 pm EDT Update
The South East Melbourne Phoenix have opened the door for part-owner Dante Exum to join the roster, after the Australian Boomers star was waived by the Houston Rockets. “If and when Dante decides that the NBL is the right move for him, we of course will do whatever we can do to make that as easy for him as possible,” Phoenix GM Tommy Greer said via Newscorp.
Shams Charania: Sources: The Minnesota Timberwolves have picked up third-year rookie scale options on Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels. Rookie option deadline is Nov. 1; Minnesota takes care of their two 2020 first-rounders (Edwards No. 1, McDaniels No. 28) before the season begins.
Ben Anderson: Joe Ingles said the whole @Utah Jazz roster celebrated Malik Fitts making the team. “Tall, athletic, can shoot the ball. Three pretty good things that an NBA player can have. He was like a little kid when he found out… which was exciting, it was a happy moment for our team.”
October 18, 2021 | 7:13 pm EDT Update
Phoenix now faces an uncertain future with Deandre Ayton. The franchise center is unhappy with the franchise’s consistent stance to his representatives that the organization simply didn’t foresee him as a max player — regardless of which of his peers in the 2018 NBA Draft class earned max deals this offseason, sources said.
Ayton, a key part of the Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals, held firm on wanting a full, five-year, max contract — which would’ve been worth a guaranteed $172.5 million plus possible escalators — but talks never progressed to the Suns making a formal offer on a max deal ahead of Monday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline, sources told ESPN.
In recent weeks, Phoenix raised the concept of a shorter maximum contract deal — perhaps over three or four years instead of the full five years — but never formally made the offer or broached the idea again, sources said.
Chris Fedor: #Cavs and shooting guard Collin Sexton do not have an agreement on a rookie-scale contract extension and he’ll become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season, sources tell @clevelanddotcom