Sources: Rockets interviewing three more; Mike D'Antoni still lead candidate

The Houston Rockets were in the process Thursday of conducting ‎three more interviews for their head-coaching vacancy, but signs continue to point strongly to the team hiring Mike D'Antoni as their next coach, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey traveled to Cleveland to hold separate interviews with Toronto Raptors assistant coach Rex Kalamian, Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas and Memphis Grizzlies assistant ‎Jeff Bzdelik.

Sources say Houston received permission from the respective teams that employ those coaches to interview them. But sources say the Rockets made it clear to all three candidates that the team is also looking for an associate head coach to work alongside D'Antoni in the event his deal is finalized in the coming days, as is widely expected now in league coaching circles.

As ESPN.com reported earlier this week, when D'Antoni initially emerged as a leading candidate, Houston officials want at least one overtly defensive-minded coach ‎on D'Antoni's staff to essentially serve as his defensive coordinator.

Alexander vowed to ESPN last month that he would take a more active role in this coaching search than he has in the past.

Thursday's interviews were held in Cleveland, sources said, because that's where Kalamian was preparing for Wednesday night's Game 2 of the Cavs-Raptors matchup in the Eastern Conference finals.

Sources say ‎the Rockets' interest in Kalamian is sparked at least in part by the veteran assistant's strong relationship with Houston star James Harden -- as well as Rockets fantasy free-agent target Kevin Durant -- from their time working together in Oklahoma City.

Kalamian, sources say, is also coveted by new Washington Wizards coach Scotty Brooks, also in a potential associate head-coach role, after Kalamian worked so closely under Brooks with the Thunder before he joined Dwane Casey's Raptors staff coming into this season. ‎

‎The Houston Chronicle first reported the Rockets' interest in Bzdelik earlier this week. The former Denver Nuggets coach worked on Dave Joerger's staff in Memphis for the past two seasons and, according to the Chronicle, is under consideration for the Grizzlies' coaching vacancy in the wake of Joerger's departure to Sacramento.

‎Thursday's interview with Silas, meanwhile, was his second sitdown with the Rockets this month. The veteran assistant worked with Cleveland, Washington and Golden State before taking his current post in Charlotte on Steve Clifford's staff and is the son of former NBA All-Star and coach Paul Silas.

ESPN reported earlier this week that Jeff Van Gundy received strong support from Morey to make a return to Houston for a second stint as Rockets coach, but sources say Alexander could not be sold on a reunion with the ESPN analyst, who has been working in television since the sides parted ways in May 2007.

The offensive-minded D'Antoni has served as associate head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers since December. Sources say Houston has made it clear in recent days that it wants to hire a proven head coach to replace the ousted Kevin McHale and interim successor J.B. Bickerstaff.

The Rockets fired McHale just 11 games into what was the first season of a three-year deal. Houston lost to Golden State in five games in the first round of the playoffs while slipping well off the standard it set in 2014-15, when the club won 56 games and reached the Western Conference finals.

After his own meeting with team officials, Bickerstaff withdrew from consideration early in the search, despite posting a 37-34 record upon succeeding McHale and helping Houston rally into a playoff spot after its season-long defensive struggles.