• Even though one of the bigger fish in the sea is no longer available, the Houston Rockets will still be drawing from a pool of big name applicants.

    According to ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, Houston has already spoken to seven candidates to replace interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

    The Rockets met with David Blatt today and have scheduled meetings with former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and TNT’s Kenny Smith for tomorrow. It seems that the Rockets will be casting a wide net in their search.

    Watkins also reported that the Rockets haven’t consulted James Harden yet, but that will change before any final decisions are made.

    We spoke about Blatt’s Cleveland tenure when he was mentioned as a possibility for the Kings, and much of that holds here. If he can’t command the respect and attention of The Beard it’ll be the same old story for Houston. The Rockets desperately need someone to coax a full-48 effort out of their superstar, and Blatt’s record doesn’t paint him as the best man for that part of the job. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible Blatt learned what won’t work with superstars and has made the necessary adjustments.

    Hornacek probably deserves another chance to lead a team after Phoenix crumbled following strong showings in 2013 and 2014. His juggling point guard act with the Suns wouldn’t need to be replicated in Texas, though Houston does have several capable ball handlers. The Rockets, like Hornacek’s Suns, can play a quick pace and probably would prefer to get out and run as opposed to having opponents dissect Houston’s defensive weaknesses in slower half court sets.

    While it’s unlikely Kenny Smith will follow in Steve Kerr’s footsteps as an immediate broadcast-to-bench success story, he could turn out to be a worthy investment as a coaching project. Smith could bring a new perspective as a ‘modern’ player and having a fresh, relatable voice could help him get a full buy in from players. From a fan perspective it’d be a shame to lose The Jet on TNT, but it’s clear he can break down game situations quickly and explain them thoroughly. Whether that can carry over in a full-time sideline gig is up for debate, but credit Houston for thinking outside the box a little bit on this one.

    The vacancy in Houston is perhaps the most intriguing opening remaining. The Rockets are full of talent, led by one of the most unstoppable scoring forces in the NBA, and backed by a GM with a distinct vision and an exhibited ability to go out and execute it. If (read: When) Dwight Howard moves onto greener pastures, maybe the well-documented internal strife will go with him. Either way, the Rockets seem like a solid bet for a bounce back year and have a key building block already in place. Daryl Morey will have a field of interesting options to choose from as he looks to get the Rockets over the hump.

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