Kurt Helin

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Rockets coaching search update: Kenny Smith to be interviewed, Frank Vogel contacted

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The Houston Rockets’ wide-ranging coaching search just keeps marching along. We know there has been contact with Mike D’Antoni, Sam Cassell, Stephen Silas, Chris Finch and others.

Tuesday it’s the turn for a big name but a longshot — Kenny “The Jet” Smith — got his chance, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

Monday it was David Blatt’s turn to pitch himself to Houston, and we also learn from Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronical Jeff Hornacek gets a shot on Tuesday as well

The guys conventional wisdom around the league at the front of the list — Frank Vogel and Jeff Van Gundy — are still in the wings.

It’s still early in the process, as evidence here is another report from Calvin Watkins about James Harden‘s involvement, or lack thereof, to this point.

The Houston Rockets, who are in the middle of a coaching search, have yet to present any of the candidates to star guard James Harden according to a source. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said they would talk to Harden during the coaching search and free agency process.

The Rockets are taking their time. Which is smart, this is a big hire for them, but the Rockets are not the only team looking around right now and they don’t want their guy to get grabbed by someone else (not that Dave Joerger was).

Watch Kevin Durant drop career playoff best 41 on Spurs

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Kevin Durant struggled in the first half, with the Spurs defense seeming to have contained him on Sunday.

Second half Durant was as good as we have ever seen him — 29 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter when he shot 6-of-6. While Gregg Popovich would say the Spurs made some defensive mistakes on Durant, he also just hit ridiculous contested shots. He was vintage Kevin Durant.

And with that, the series is tied 2-2 heading back to San Antonio.

Report: Grizzlies start coaching search by reaching out to Frank Vogel

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It looks like the Memphis Grizzlies are going to start their effort to replace their unexpectedly fired coach by talking to an unexpectedly fired coach.

The Grizzlies front office will talk to several candidates to replace David Joerger, starting with reaching out to recently deposed Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Memphis Grizzlies have begun making contact with several head-coaching candidates, as well as the representatives of Frank Vogel, league sources told The Vertical…

Memphis has started reaching out to teams to obtain permission to interview candidates, and league sources told The Vertical that part of the franchise’s working list of coaches includes former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, San Antonio assistant Ettore Messina, Charlotte Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing, Portland assistant Nate Tibbets and Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale, league sources said.

Vogel will have options, he needs to decide if he wants to jump back in, and if so where. He can afford to wait if he wants. But he also would be a good fit in Memphis, with his defense-first mindset fitting with the grit and grind style of the Grizzlies.

Beyond Vogel, that’s a strong list of potential candidates. My question: Are any of them clear upgrades over Joerger? If a team is going to let a good coach go the front office needs to have an upgrade in the wings. Are any of these guys, including Vogel, really an upgrade?

Joerger is nearing taking over as the coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas out for rest of East semifinal series

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MIAMI (AP) — Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas will miss the rest of his team’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat with a sprained right ankle.

Valanciunas was injured in the third quarter of Toronto’s win in Game 3.

X-rays did not show any fractures, but the team ruled him out for the rest of the series after more evaluation Sunday.

Valanciunas has averaged 15 points and 12.1 rebounds in these playoffs. He had a double-double in all three games against the Heat.

Toronto outscored Miami by 41 points when Valanciunas was on the floor in the first three games. The Heat have outscored the Raptors by 39 when he hasn’t been on the court.

The announcement came shortly after Miami announced center Hassan Whiteside is day-to-day with a sprained knee ligament.

Reports: Sacramento nearing deal to hire Dave Joerger as coach

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After interviewing virtually every available coach West of the Mississippi River, the Sacramento Kings may be close to getting their man — someone surprisingly jettisoned by a team just east of the Mississippi.

The minute Dave Joerger was let go by the Memphis Grizzlies — reportedly because he asked if he could speak to the Kings about their open coaching job — he leapt to the front of the line in Sacramento. The two sides met on Sunday, and while the first reports were that Sacramento decision maker Vlade Divac wanted to step back and not rush a decision, it sounds like the two sides are very close to a deal.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Sacramento Kings are progressing rapidly in discussions with Dave Joerger, with a Monday meeting that will include owner Vivek Ranadive being the final hurdle to Joerger’s hiring as head coach, league sources told The Vertical….

Joerger will have the autonomy to hire his own assistant coaching staff, and there’s doubt about his commitment to bringing members of his Grizzlies staff with him to the Kings, league sources said. Elston Turner is expected to join him, and another candidate – veteran NBA and college coach Bill Bayno – is likely to join Joerger on the bench as well, sources said.

Bayno has worked individually with Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Ranadive should not be an impediment to this deal. As the owner he has every right to meet with his new coach, but hopefully he’s learned to stay out of basketball decision making and leave that to the basketball people.

Marc Stein of ESPN added this.

Don’t be shocked if the last year of that is a team option.

For Joerger, that would be a doubling of the below-market salary he got in Memphis.

The Sacramento job comes with a lot of opportunities — moving into an amazing new building, for one — and challenges. DeMarcus Cousins falls into both categories. Joerger did a great job in Memphis installing a system that took advantage of Marc Gasol‘s traditional talents as a big man, if he can do that in Sacramento and establish a real bond with Cousins it will be a big step in the right direction for a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs in a decade.