Author: Dan Feldman

Kevin McHale, J.B. Bickerstaff

Rockets owner: J.B. Bickerstaff has coaching job until season’s end

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The Rockets named J.B. Bickerstaff interim coach after firing Kevin McHale.

But coaching free agents like Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy loom as potential replacements.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Can J.B. win this job?

Alexander: Of course he can. If the team responds to him and we win, of course he can.

He’s here until the end of the season, and then you’re going to re-evaluate him. That correct?

Alexander: 100 percent.

Alexander, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“The team was obviously not responding on on offense; on defense we weren’t playing hard. It continued for a while.

“I’ve never seen my team play as poorly and with less effort. I’m not attributing it to the coach. I had to do something.”

Houston fired McHale, as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey explained, have a very slim margin for error in the Western Conference. This is a talented team that entered the season with championship hopes. The idea behind firing McHale is making a title realistic once again.

Might that be a job for a more experienced coach than Bickerstaff?

Apparently, Alexander wants to give the unproven Bickerstaff a chance.

Alexander is in 23rd season owning the team. The Rockets’ worst finish in that span is 28-54, and two 34-48 seasons are the only other losing seasons. So, Alexander’s extreme dissatisfaction is understandable. Houston has almost always been good, sometimes great, under his watch.

That means Bickerstaff faces a high bar to stick beyond this season. It’s possible he clears it. He’s defensive-minded, and the Rockets have been awful on that end. He might also connect better with James Harden, who has reportedly put off teammates.

At least Bickerstaff has a chance to prove himself.

Anthony Davis likely out for Pelicans, who could be down to nine available players

Anthony Davis, Danilo Gallinari

Anthony Davis injured his shoulder last night, and it’ll probably keep him out against the Thunder tonight.

That’s a big deal on its own, but the Pelicans will also miss Omer Asik and Jrue Holiday.

Jim Eichenhofer of

Alvin Gentry told media members during his pregame session that Davis is not expected to play, due to the left shoulder injury that caused him to exit Tuesday’s loss to Denver in the first quarter. In addition to Davis being sidelined, the Pelicans (1-10) will be without Omer Asik, who is missing a second straight game due to a stomach illness.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Jrue Holiday started his third consecutive game Tuesday night, but won’t play Wednesday night’s game at Oklahoma City. —

The Pelicans’ starting point guard — who is being used cautiously while he recovers from a stress reaction in his right leg that caused him to miss 90 games over the previous two years — is still on a 25 –minute restriction and can’t play games on consecutive days.

Davis, Asik and Holiday would join New Orleans’ already-lengthy injury list:

If you’re keeping track, here are the Pelicans who should be available tonight:

Yeesh. That’s a roster only Sam Hinkie could love.

Playing lesser talent and without Kevin Durant at his side, Russell Westbrook should run wild tonight.

Rick Carlisle: Rockets firing Kevin McHale ‘preposterous’

Rick Carlisle

Ask an NBA coach whether another NBA coach got fired too quickly, and – regardless of the circumstances involved – there’s a good chance the answer is yes.

Coaches understand the pressures of the job, and they empathize with each other. They defend each other.

But even in that context, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has particularly sharp words for the Rockets’ firing of Kevin McHale.

Carlisle, via Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

“It’s preposterous,” he said. “It’s beyond belief. I’m really shocked. It’s just hard to believe that something could happen at this stage to a guy who took a team unexpectedly to the conference finals last year. To have this happen after just 11 games is just preposterous. Nobody expects this. It’s very disappointing to hear. But Kevin will be fine. There will be a lot of people wanting to hire him. I can tell you that.”

Carlisle and McHale played together with the Celtics, so that could explain some of Carlisle’s displeasure.

But what else were the Rockets supposed to do if the players were so dissatisfied with McHale (and James Harden)? This is a talented team that still has plenty of potential – more because of Harden than McHale. As Houston general manager Daryl Morey explained, there’s little margin for error in the Western Conference.

It’s unfortunate for McHale the Rockets were in this position, and he might not even deserve the most blame. But this still might have been Houston’s best move.

Perhaps, Carlisle knows more about the interworking of the Rockets’ locker room, but it’s difficult to imagine what he’d know that would actually make this firing so unforgivable.

NBA: Kyle Lowry actually offensively fouled Andre Iguodala twice

Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry
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The Warriors remained undefeated with a win over the Raptors last night, but not without a little controversy.

With the shot clock and game clock practically synced, Toronto attempted to score while trailing by one. Kyle Lowry screened Andre Iguodala, and officials called Lowry for a debatable offensive foul.

That was the right call, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report. In fact, the league ruled Lowry should have first been called for fouling Iguodala a few seconds earlier:

Lowry (TOR) grabs Iguodala’s (GSW) right arm and affects his ability to defend.

The Warriors aren’t completely vindicated, though.

The NBA also ruled Stephen Curry got away with travelling before this crucial basket:

[Observable in enhanced video] Curry (GSW) moves his pivot foot.

Report: Rockets players frustrated by James Harden’s play and aloofness

James Harden

The Rockets held a players-only meeting.

The result? Houston fired Kevin McHale.

But the coach wasn’t the only person criticized in the meeting. James Harden also faced scrutiny.

Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

While players tried to keep details of the meeting private, two themes emerged, three people told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. Harden’s play and aloofness have frustrated teammates, and McHale took the brunt of the blame for the team’s play. Practices were not resulting in improved play in games.

Neither the meeting’s content nor result are surprising.

Harden’s lack of defensive effort has been glaring, and his offense hasn’t been impressive enough to offset that. But you can’t fire the player. You can fire the coach.

Really, these issues are all related.

If Harden defended harder, Houston would have won more, and his teammates would’ve been happier. If his teammates were happier, they might have worked harder in practices. If they worked harder in practice, McHale might have looked more effective. On the flip side, if Harden believed more in McHale, Harden might’ve defended harder. If Harden defended harder… return to step one.

McHale wasn’t the Rockets’ only problem. Harden has fallen way short of expectations. He now knows his teammates recognize that.

What will he do about it? He has an opportunity to make amends in a way McHale doesn’t.