As the NBA regular season was winding down, some Rockets fans wanted the team to make the postseason, while some wanted them to miss it and hang onto their first-round draft choice, which is now on its way to Denver as part of the Ty Lawson trade.
Some Rockets fans blame James Harden for the subpar season, some cite the fact that the team would probably have won 20 games all season without him. Some want Dwight Howard to stay next season, some want him to opt out of his deal. They're a polarizing bunch, these Rockets. However, one thing we can all agree on — the J.B. Bickerstaff era is likely two games away from its ending.
Since the firing of Kevin McHale 11 games into the season, Bickerstaff has held the Rockets head coaching job and received the general treatment of a substitute teacher by a group that seemed largely uninterested in winning basketball games. Unless pride really, REALLY kicks in for Harden, Howard and company, then I can't imagine these latest nuggets are going to amp up the effort level.
It appears that, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Rockets head coaching "wish list" is topped by former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks and former Rockets head coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy...
With Tom Thibodeau nearing final agreement on a Minnesota deal, Jeff Van Gundy remains Houston's top co-candidate alongside Scotty Brooks.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
As a candidate for the Rockets, Brooks makes sense on two levels — first, he obviously has positive history with James Harden, and with "the ability to somehow reach Harden" as the key criterion for whoever the coach ends up being, Brooks makes sense. Second, hiring Brooks would seem to give the Rockets at least a puncher's chance at reuniting Harden with former OKC teammate Kevin Durant in Houston.
But wait! Brooks appears to be popular...
Can Washington complete a deal with Scotty Brooks before Houston's season ends? Sources say the Rockets are optimistic that Brooks will wait— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
ESPN sources say Washington is actively intensifying its Scotty Brooks pursuit in hopes of sealing a Brooks deal before Houston's job opens.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
Meanwhile, the Rockets are holding out hope that Brooks will listen to their pitch. This damn playoff series is really getting in the way of the Rockets' rebuild plans...
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 (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
...and you just know that if Brooks winds up signing with Washington while the Rockets are still getting steamrolled by the Warriors, there will be Rocket fans screaming, "See! Now they have NO shot at Durant!!" And God forbid Durant follow Brooks to Washington.
Shifting gears, after years of coaching rumors, it appears Van Gundy is ready to get back in the mix again as a head coach in the town where he still makes his home...
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.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
These rumors make Van Gundy's heaping helping of praise for the job J.B. Bickerstaff has done this season — Van Gundy's worst bit of analysis in his decade with ABC/ESPN — a little bit awkward, especially if he ends up replacing him. Also, if JVG is hired, I would love to be a fly on the wall of his office as he unpacks his things and Daryl Morey and Les Alexander stop in to see how his first day back on the job is going.
Oh yeah, the Rockets play Game 3 tonight at Toyota Center, tip-off at 8:30 p.m.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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