Who is next Houston Rockets’ coach? Five names to watch.

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The Houston Rockets are keeping Daryl Morey as GM and remain all-in on small-ball (in part because James Harden wants it).

However, the godfather coach of small ball lineups just walked out the door.

Mike D’Antoni is gone in Houston, and he is leaving behind some serious challenges in Houston. The next coach is going to have to deal with Harden as he nears free agency (2022), getting Russell Westbrook to play within his skill set, and a roster that needs more perimeter defenders if they are going without much rim protection.

Who is in line for the Rockets’ job? Here are five coaches whose names have some buzz in league circles as the owner Tilman Fertitta and Morey start the coaching search.

1) Jeff Van Gundy

He was being mentioned as a potential replacement for D’Antoni back while the coronavirus had the season on hiatus, then his name was the first to come up when it was learned the job was open. Van Gundy was the Rockets’ coach when Morey first arrived in Houston, and he has long been a guy who praised Harden. Van Gundy is seen as a defensive coach, which Houston needs, but his offenses were slow and deliberate, not exactly fitting the current small-ball roster. Also, is Fertitta going to back up the Brinks truck to get Van Gundy out of the broadcast booth?

2) Sam Cassell

Another name that came up not long after the job became vacant. The Clippers’ assistant coach under Doc Rivers is a former Rockets player (he won two rings there) and someone who has been near the front of the line of assistant coaches deserving a top job for a while. Current Rocket Austin Rivers played under Cassell in Los Angeles and has praised him as a skills development. He has never been a head coach before, do the Rockets want to take that risk with Harden in his prime?

3) Tyronn Lue

His name comes up in every job search, but for good reason — he relates to players and he’s coached a team to a title. When Lue was available as an assistant last year (before choosing Doc Rivers and the Clippers, where he and Cassell both are) Morey and the Rockets reportedly recruited him for D’Antoni’s staff. The questions are money, and can they get him. Lue has been tied to the Philadelphia 76ers job as a frontrunner, but New Orleans and others are interested as well. If Houston is going to land Lue they will have to pay top dollar and give him some power in the organization.

4) Kenny Atkinson

The Brooklyn Nets coach is a name that comes up as the Rockets look to develop players around Harden, Westbrook, and Eric Gordon (the three of them eat up the majority of the salary cap space for the next three years). Atkinson did a fantastic job as a player development guy, but star players chaffed under his leadership style — and Houston is all about its stars. Atkinson also is linked to Chicago and other job openings around the NBA, he will be in demand.

5) Stephen Silas

The current Mavericks’ assistant coach came close to getting the Houston job four years ago when D’Antoni was hired. He is working with a Dallas team that had the best offense in the NBA this season, which fits the Rockets’ style. Also, Pelicans’ assistant Chris Finch could be in this mix of assistants getting the first chance, but only if the Rockets go that direction.

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

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Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
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Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

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There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.