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Speaking on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Tuesday, Fertitta solidified Morey’s employment with the NBA franchise and said he’s in charge of finding the Rockets’ new head coach. “Daryl Morey’s job is safe, and I’m sure he’s going to pick the right head coach,” Fertitta said of Morey’s job to find a replacement for Mike D’Antoni, who announced he would not return to the Rockets.
Mark Berman: From @Tilman Fertitta and the #Rockets:
Tim MacMahon: Sources: There is mutual interest between the Rockets and Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell. Cassell started his playing career with the two-time champion “Clutch City” Rockets.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Mike and Laurel D’Antoni statement to ESPN on departure from Rockets
Chris Mannix: Mavericks assistant coach Stephen Silas was a strong candidate for the Rockets job before D’Antoni was hired in 2016. Silas is highly regarded in league circles—could emerge as a candidate again.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: Houston coach Mike D’Antoni is informing the franchise’s ownership today that he’s becoming a free agent and won’t return to the Rockets next season.
A couple of proven coaches with Rockets roots have been mentioned often inside the league as potential replacements for D’Antoni: ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, the Rockets’ coach from 2003 to 2007 who maintains a home in Houston; and former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, the Rockets’ director of player development during the first season of Morey’s tenure. Another name to watch: New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach Chris Finch. His résumé as a head coach includes championships won in the British Basketball League and with the Rockets’ G League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
If D’Antoni does leave Houston, as so many expect, Lue would likely get a serious look from the Rockets, too (with the Jeff Van Gundy candidacy, sources say, likely leading the way).
Sam Amick: But again, who the hell knows on the back end, but Jeff Van Gundy’s name is the one that I heard consistently as a very possible replacement for Mike and, and it’s interesting to see Thibs’ name in there now because you got a guy who was Jeff’s top assistant when Jeff was the Rockets coach and a guy who, you know, in terms of like the optics around Tom, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster the past couple of years, you know, he was labeled, essentially, like, kind of a dinosaur who was too tough on his players and did not assimilate with today’s NBA.
Sam Amick: So, you know, Van Gundy and Thibs being from the same tree, whatever happens next, I think you are starting to get a sense of what might be prioritized, obviously defense first, discipline… Now, you know, it’s trying to juxtapose that reconcile that with James Harden in particular, you know, with Thibs or Van Gundy is barking at him on the on the defensive side. I mean, there’s a lot we could get into there. But right now, that’s probably how I see it.
Sam Amick: As I reported a couple months ago, barring a championship, if they do save the season, I do not get the sense that Mike D’Antoni is going to be back. You’ve had a major divide in the contract negotiations.
The Post reported in February that Thibodeau would be on Leon Rose’s short list and looked to be a favorite if the new team president chose not to bring back Mike Miller as head coach. While his reputation took a hit with the failure in bringing Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and allegedly mishandling young talent, sources told The Post the Nets and Houston will have strong interest, too. Houston’s Mike D’Antoni will be a free agent.
Thibodeau is confident he’ll get a job next season and has even been asking around the league for advice on picking the best opportunity, according to sources. The Knicks, Nets and Rockets are expected to have the three highest-profile coaching gigs available. Keep an eye on the Pelicans, Bulls and Hawks. Then there’s the big question of whether Gregg Popovich is returning for another season in San Antonio. Our advice for Thibodeau, if he lands a job, would be to hire a couple assistants who can connect and serve as a bridge with younger players.
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September 26, 2020 | 7:47 am EDT Update
Brian Windhorst: The Thunder are beginning to look at a rebuild, which is one of the reasons why Billy Donovan did not stay. So with the expectation this could be a first-time head coach. Some of the names that I’ve heard: David Vanterpool, who is an assistant with the Timberwolves. Adrian Griffin, who’s been a candidate for jobs over the years, recently with Toronto. And watch out for a sleeper candidate: Will Hardy, assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, a lot of people are very high on him.
Brian Windhorst on Rockets’ coaching search: Keep an eye on former Rocket, a guy who won a championship in Houston, Sam Cassell. And if not him, one of the favorites is our colleague here at ESPN, former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, in the mix for this job.
Fox is the team’s best chance to accomplish that goal, although McNair has to make a major commitment to the former Kentucky Wildcat this season. League sources have confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings, under previous management, already had a discussion with Fox’s representation on an extension. Depending on where the NBA’s final salary cap numbers come in, Fox is eligible for a five-year max money contract worth between $150-180 million. Don’t expect a discounted rate. He will ask for and likely get whatever the maximum is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Ntilikina and Smith both are in the final years of their rookie contracts and haven’t lit the league on fire yet. They have vastly different styles. Ntilikina is a playmaker and defender, while Smith is a scorer and penetrator. Smith has even changed his jersey number to No. 4 — which he wore at North Carolina State. “We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,’’ Thibodeau said after the third day of voluntary group practices that is part of the NBA’s in-market OTAs for the “Delete 8.’’
“I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s often times ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others. “They both have had some good moments in the league. You want to build a consistency. And how do you get there? You have to do it through your work. You have to learn from the experiences. And you have to be disciplined. And so, hopefully we can get there this is a very important offseason for both players.”
As it happened, Butler’s hard-nosed approach wasn’t accepted by Minnesota’s ownership, management or their young players. Butler asked to be traded and Thibodeau was soon out of a job. “Butler didn’t like some of the guys’ lack of professionalism,” one NBA source told The Post. “[Jimmy] and Tom had long talks about how to deal with it. When Butler realized it was unsolvable, he lashed out at the organization. His clock was ticking on his prime and didn’t want to waste it and forced his way out. Tommy was telling him to have patience, see it through.”
Boston overcame a 12-point first-half deficit, its largest comeback when facing elimination in 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info. “Boston played great in that second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They deserved and earned what they got. We understand how tough it is to win in the playoffs. We did not compete hard enough defensively, and we paid the price for that. But you do have to credit Boston. They played with great force, particularly off the dribble.”
During a huddle in the second half, coach Brad Stevens told his players that, for the first time in several games, they were playing Celtics basketball. Though this was probably obvious to anyone who has watched this conference finals series, it was a powerful statement that spoke to both how much of a departure the Celtics’ recent efforts have been from their ideal selves, and to Boston’s potential to be a two-way monster when the players are confident and aggressive. “He was absolutely right, we didn’t play the way we wanted the whole series,” Theis said. “We didn’t play our defense, we did adjustments and we just went back to our system the way we played all year. Everybody felt comfortable in our system. You could tell in the third quarter everybody was just enjoying being out there.”
Rachel Nichols: Brad Stevens told me at halftime that several players spoke up, talking about how dire the moment was and how they had to save their season. Jayson Tatum was one of them – he just told me he’s proud of how the group responded afterward.
Sean Grande: Brad on the Miami zone…”I hear all the time ‘get the ball to the middle of [it]. When you have Butler, Iguodala and Bam in the middle of the zone that’s how you turn it over. You’ve got to create action before the passes. If you stare at it, they’re going to steal it.”