The Rockets have received permission from the Warriors to interview Golden State assistant coach Luke Walton for the head coaching job in Houston, sources told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). Jeff Van Gundy appears to be the top target for the Rockets, who are out of the playoffs after Wednesday’s loss. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff will receive consideration for the formal head coaching job, and his players and bosses like him, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com, who nonetheless adds that the team didn’t win enough for Bickerstaff to feel comfortable about his position. The players have been aware of Bickerstaff’s temporary status and know the team intends to go after marquee names as it plays the field for a coach, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.
Golden State also gave the Lakers permission to interview Walton. He already spoke with Knicks president Phil Jackson, though both sides insisted that wasn’t an interview. Walton is reportedly expected to meet with Kings GM Vlade Divac. The 36-year-old Walton has a window to interview with suitors for the next few days as Golden State awaits its second-round playoff opponent.
Whoever coaches the Rockets next season will face a challenge to turn around a team that disappointed this year after a run to the Western Conference finals in 2015. James Harden and Dwight Howard “hated each other,” Wojnarowski tweets, though Howard is expected to opt out of his contract this summer, and the two have consistently praised each other publicly.
“Ultimately it’s his decision but, you know, obviously we love big fella here,” Harden said when asked about the specter of Howard’s free agency, according to The Vertical’s Michael Lee (Twitter link).
The chemistry between Harden and Howard is “cordially bad,” as one source described it to Watkins. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and GM Daryl Morey anticipate that Harden will give input on the choice of the next coach, but Howard is not expected to influence the team’s decision, according to Watkins.