Posts Tagged ‘Gregg Popovich’

Popovich on Hammon: ‘We think she’s a star’


VIDEO: Becky Hammon has had a big impact on the NBA already

The most popular coach this summer in San Antonio was not Gregg Popovich. Well, there’s a reason for that. Pop took the summer off to recover from that epic first-round loss to Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers — “he’s probably the best in the league at figuring out what’s got to get done and how to do it,” Pop said — and travel with pals.

But he wasn’t too far removed from one of the summer’s bigger NBA stories: Becky Hammon and her highly-visible presence at the Las Vegas Summer League, where she led the Spurs to the title as the team’s coach. No, Pop didn’t miss any of that.

“How could I?” he said.

Then he added: “It became such a big deal, and it’s not why we did it.”

Popovich means the Spurs didn’t hire Hammon last summer as an assistant coach to make a statement or trigger a breakthrough for women or even plot a way to get Hammon an NBA coaching job. He said he hired Hammon because he liked her potential and thought she could help, the same way he hires anyone.

That said …

“We think she’s a star as far as understanding the game,” Popovich said. “Ever since the first time I saw her play (in the WNBA), chewing that gum, taking no prisoners on the court, we thought she was something special. And then when we got to know her, and her being with us for a whole year and in our coach’s meetings, then I knew for sure that she’s a basketball junkie.”

As the newest hire, Hammon followed protocol and sat behind the Spurs bench during the season, but her input was weighed the same as anyone else’s. Then Popovich gave her the Vegas Summer League assignment. Hammon lost the first game … and then won the rest. More importantly, she showed a command of the huddle and substitution patterns, all while handling the anticipated media crush like a veteran. In all, she looked like she belonged.

Popovich wasn’t surprised: “She’s got great ideas, got a great way about her, guys respect her. I think we’re lucky to have her in the program.”

Of course, the question begs: How much longer will Hammon be in the program? After Vegas, there was seemingly a rush to make her a head coaching candidate, which was partly media-fueled but NBA front-office types also pitched in (anonymously) and and said she was on the right track (if not the fast track). When is an assistant coach ready to be a head coach?

“That’s a great question,” Popovich said. “There’s not a formula, nor does a bell go off. The first step in deciding if someone’s ready is how they feel about it. You take a Steve Kerr or Avery Johnson or Mike Budenholzer. Usually the situation decides it because you don’t know if something becomes available that fits you. If the situation presents itself and the individual feels they want to go for it, the only real decision is: is it time?

“I think the person who takes the job knows more than I do. You’re not ready until you take the job. And as we know, everything changes when you take that one seat over. You get ready once you take that seat.”

Hammon will get that seat once she feels she’s ready and another team feels she’s ready. Also, figure that Popovich will have a say in the matter; Hammon will run any and everything by him first.

Until then, as Pop said, the Spurs are lucky to have her. And vice versa.

 

Blogtable: Next coach for Team USA?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Next Team USA coach? | Point guards for 2016? | Thoughts on NBA-refs deal?



VIDEOJerry Colangelo discusses Team USA

> Your nameplate says “Jerry Colangelo, Chairman, USA Basketball.” So tell me Mr. Colangelo, who’s going to coach the greatest basketball team on the planet after Coach Mike Krzyzewski steps down next summer? And why are you choosing him?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’d like to say Gregg Popovich and consider it done, but I’m not so sure Pop would want to take on that (minimum) four-year commitment, given his renewed opportunities in his day job. I do think it would be nice to get an NBA coach this time, one who appears to have respect across the league and also someone with enough job security to not face any awkward employment situations during his USA tenure. Here’s my pick: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Gregg Popovich. The greatest basketball team deserves the greatest coach on the planet. Even though he’s getting up in years, Popovich would relish and make the most of the challenge. And as the man who has done more to make the NBA and international league than any other, it would be the perfect cap on his career.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comYou mean after I’ve made the strongest push possible to retain K, of course. But if I do have to find a replacement, which would be understandable considering all the “offseason” time he has given up through the years, then Gregg Popovich is the choice. Why? Because I can’t think of a reason why not. Others deserve consideration, but Popovich checks every box, from a history with USA Basketball to immense credibility with players to a strong international background.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: First, I run the idea past Gregg Popovich, who by then should be retired and bored. The reasons for choosing Pop? Do you really have to ask? If Pop is up to serving exclusively as Team USA coach during the Olympics and Worlds, then my job is done. If Pop is too busy sampling the vino to bother with coaching, then my next choice is John Calipari, who knows how to relate to stars, both established and up-and-coming. Heck, by then, half the team could be ex-Kentucky players.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: My first call would be to Gregg Popovich. He’s the best coach in the game and he has the respect of players across the league. Guys will want to play for him and play hard for him. That he, like Krzyzewski, was a member of our armed forces, is a bonus.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo offense to younger, up-and-coming stars in the coaching ranks, but this is a job for a master motivator. That person’s understanding of superstar talent (and how it needs to be massaged in this environment) is far more important than anything you can draw up on a white board. I don’t think there is any question that Doc Rivers is the man that fits that job description. He is universally respected among among coaches and players at all levels. Coach K was an exquisite choice when he stepped into the void of that revolving door of big name coaches and helped me (Mr. Jerry Colangelo) resuscitate the program. He, too, had that something special needed to convince the best of the best to sacrifice for the greater good that Doc has shown throughout his time as a coach. And please know that I’ll make Doc an offer he can’t refuse.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: My pick is Doc Rivers, a championship coach, a former All-Star point guard and current team president in the NBA’s second-largest market. He is a student of coaching in all aspects, beginning with a constant desire for self-improvement, and the best players will continue to be drawn to USA Basketball by him. There will be more pressure than for any coaching job in the NBA — you are expected to win every game, with one failure akin to national disgrace — and Rivers will be up to the challenge.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: My first call would be to a former United States military man who is also a pretty good coach himself: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. Pop could surely handle coaching a few extra games in the summer, would appreciate serving his country, and he would instantly command the respect of players from around the NBA. If Pop demurs, my next call would be a little out of left field: Phil Jackson. Considering the Zen Master has always liked coaching superstars, perhaps a Team USA situation would be perfect. Finally, if they both pass, here’s an idea that might prove to be a more long-term solution: Jason Kidd. Not only is Kidd a former two-time gold medalist as a player, he’s shown himself to be a creative thinker as a coach, with an ability to relate to players of all ages.

Morning Shootaround — August 2


VIDEO: Team World rallies past Team Africa

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Olajuwon, Mutombo return for Team Africa | Knicks to sign Vujacic | Teague making impact off-court

No. 1: Olajuwon, Mutombo return for Team Africa Yesterday’s NBA Africa 2015 exhibition game was a success by any measure, but the game’s signature moment may have come midway through the second quarter when Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo checked into the game. As our Shaun Powell writes, it was a moment that almost didn’t happen

Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo, the greatest players Africa ever produced, were asked by league organizers to come out of retirement and make a cameo in the exhibition. Olajuwon is a Hall of Famer and Mutombo will be enshrined next month. They would suit up for Team Africa, a squad of players with African blood, against Team World. Their jerseys, along with one belonging to the late Manute Bol, hung ceremoniously in the rafters above the court inside the arena.

Therefore: A simple and brilliant request, right?

Brilliant, yes. Not so simple.

Mutombo was receptive. Olajuwon said no. Olajuwon is 52, Mutumbo 49. They are fit and trim, but as basketball players, they were finished. It was not going to happen. Organizers pleaded. The answer, up to the day before tipoff, was no from Olajuwon. Truth be told? Both were afraid of being embarrassed on TV, in front of fans who knew them as legends. Neither wanted to play like chumps.

And then: Olajuwon weakened. He brought along his two pre-teenaged boys, who never saw him play, and so he agreed.

When they checked in midway through the second quarter wearing their throwbacks — Rockets for Olajuwon, multi-colored Nuggets for Mutombo — the NBA Africa game had its signature moment, its energy, its second-loudest applause of the day.

The biggest bedlam? That burst arrived when Olajuwon reeled back to 1993, executed the Dream Shake that froze Nik Vucevic, faded and shot a 15-footer that kissed the rim and fell in. Cray-zy. The crowd pounced. Players on both benches jumped.

“I made the move, I made the shot, it went in,” said Olajuwon. “I missed my first shot and was happy to make the next one. And I was really happy to participate.”

After a minute of action, Olajuwon playfully grabbed his chest, Fred Sanford-style. Gregg Popovich, who knows about coaching old players with the Spurs, did the humanitarian thing and allowed Olajuwon to wobble back to the bench and into re-retirement.

As for Mutombo? Didn’t one trademark basketball moment deserve another? As in, a blocked shot and finger wag? Popovich drew up a defensive play that you’ll never see in a Spurs game. He ordered his players to allow guard Trey Burke to reach the rim, where Mutombo awaited. The trap was set but the mouse didn’t cooperate. Burke passed the ball.

“So many of these young players don’t want to see themselves on YouTube,” said Mutombo, “so they run away.”

***

No. 2: Knicks to sign Vujacic The Knicks have made no secret that they’re trying to find players who fit into their “Triangle” offensive system. So who better to add to their roster than former two-time champ Sasha Vujacic, who played for Phil Jackson‘s Lakers? As Ian Begley writes, signing Vujacic should help the Knicks stretch opposing defenses

Vujacic played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2004 to 2011. He spent five of those seasons playing under Knicks president and then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, and four playing alongside Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who played point guard for the Lakers.

Vujacic, 31, has played overseas for much of the past four seasons. His lone NBA stint during that stretch was in 2013-14, when he played 10 minutes over two games for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Assuming he makes the regular-season roster, Vujacic could give the Knicks a needed threat from the perimeter.

He is a career 37.1 percent 3-point shooter in the NBA. Vujacic is also familiar with the Knicks’ triangle offense thanks to his time in Los Angeles. So he could help the Knicks’ younger players adapt to the system.

The 6-foot-7 Vujacic is the latest player coached by Jackson to sign a deal with the Knicks. New York has also signed former Lakers Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and DJ Mbenga — but none of those players had long stints with the team.

With Vujacic on board, the Knicks have 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts. Counting Langston Galloway, who has a partially guaranteed deal but is expected to make the regular-season roster, they have two open spots.

***

No. 3: Teague making impact off-court Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague took a visit last summer to Atlanta’s Hughes Spalding Children’s Hopsital, and ended up raising thousands of dollars for the hospital throughout the season. Teague has continued the partnership, and as Chris Vivlamore writes, Teague says the association has grown into something “beautiful”…

The Hawks guard felt compelled to donate $20 for each assist he had the previous season, a sum of $11,260. He felt he could do more. Teague and the hospital set up a program where he would match the figure again this year and challenge others to do the same. Those who matched his $20 per assist total would be All-Star sponsors. Others could give $2 per assist ($1,126) as Teammate sponsors. The money benefits the Hughes Spalding Hospital, according to a hospital representative.

“I went on a visit to Children’s to try to give the kids a little inspiration,” Teague said recently. “They go through a lot. I wanted to go there, see the kids, interact with them and have them interact with me. When I got there, I was touched. I wanted to do whatever I could to help out. That’s when we came up with the program.”

The giving will culminate with Teague’s inaugural Hoops for Hughes dinner Aug. 15 at Maggiano’s Buckhead. The event will feature a dinner, question-and-answer session, photographs with Teague and more for those who gave this year.

“When I met Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks during a recent visit to Hughes Spalding, his thoughtfulness, kindness and compassion impressed me even more than him being a young basketball superstar,” said Julia Jones, vice president for operations at Hughes Spalding. “His sensitivity towards the children we care for and his concern for their needs was very genuine. He seemed truly interested in gaining a greater understanding of the important work that is being done at Hughes Spalding and committed to supporting that work in every way he can.”

Teague said the Hawks also donated to the cause.

There are plans to continue the program next year — and for years to come. Teague finished last season with 620 assists in the regular season and playoffs combined. He finished 10th in the NBA in regular-season assists with 513 and added 107 more in the postseason. His donation will be $12,400. He will ask others to match or give $1,260 at $2 per assist.

“I just wanted to give back,” Teague said. “I didn’t think it would grow into something like this. It’s a beautiful thing. At first it was just something I wanted to do from my heart. I just wanted to give back. Now, it’s grown into something beautiful and large.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Derrick Rose is reportedly undecided on playing for Team USA … Glen Davis may be willing to sign a contract overseas if he doesn’t sign an NBA deal … Pacers center Jordan Hill was charged with driving violations outside Atlanta.

Blogtable: Favorite Ginobili moment?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Biggest impact for Clippers? | Early Rookie of the Year pick? | Favorite Manu Ginobili moment?



VIDEO: Best of Manu Ginobili in 2014-15

> Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili turned 38 on Tuesday. In celebration, please recount for us your favorite Manu Ginobili moment.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: All the fakes, creative maneuvers and between-other-guys’-legs passes run together for me. Ginobili’s clutch performances and his various accomplishments (All-Star, Sixth Man) — totally from within a team concept — are too plentiful to pick one. The “bat” game stands out as an oddity — Ginobili smacking that flying rodent and requiring rabies shots back in 2009. But my most vivid memory, witnessed first-hand, was his performance in Game 5 of the 2013 Finals. Nearly 36, Ginobili’s obituary as a player was being written in real time after he averaged 5.7 points and shot 6-for-18 (1-for-11 on 3-pointers) in Games 2-4 against Miami, with the Spurs losing two of those three. So coach Gregg Popovich puts Ginobili in the starting lineup(!) and the Argentinian goes for 24 points (seven in a pivotal third-quarter run) and 10 rebounds at home for a 10-point victory and a 3-2 series lead. He’s been “undead” ever since.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: To realize the full impact Ginobili’s NBA success has had on his native Argentina, you had to be with him, as I was, on a Basketball Without Borders trip to Buenos Aires in July 2005.  It was shortly after he’d won his second NBA championship and was perhaps at the peak of his powers.  I accompanied a group of NBA players on an outreach trip to a hospital for the indigent in a very poor section of town. The presence of the stars created a buzz, but the arrival of the Ginobili quite literally touched off a near-riot. Patients leaped out of their beds to storm the hallways to try to get a glimpse. They bowed, they cried, they were overwhelmed. Some shouted, “Please touch and heal me!” Some grabbed and pulled at him. The crowds on every floor grew and surged in each hallway, blocking paths to the elevators, cutting off stairwells. Security had to eventually intervene and evacuate all of us through a rear exit from the hospital. I’ve never seen anything like it. Now, if you’re talking about on-court memories, I’ll go with the most recent: Game 5 of the 2014 Finals when Manu completed the redemption from the previous year’s playoff flameout with 19 points in the clincher over the Heat that included the where-did-that-come-from monster dunk on the head of Chris Bosh.


VIDEO: Manu Ginobili dunks on Chris Bosh in 2014 Finals

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll go off the NBA floor and say his 2004 Olympics tournament because of the historical significance. Manu dropped 29 on the Americans in the semifinals and led Argentina to the gold medal by averaging 19.3 points in the Games. Argentina became the first team other than the US to win Olympic gold in 16 years. By comparison, the Spurs with Manu won the NBA title what, every five years? 

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are a lot of small moments, mostly assists (like this one) where he sees things that no one else does. But after how terribly he played in the 2013 Finals and knowing what kind of emotions he must have gone through after that series, his dunk in Game 5 of the 2014 Finals is my favorite Manu moment. It was the exclamation point for the most dominant Finals performance we’ve ever seen from a team, but also for an individual who looked like his career was on its last legs a year earlier.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I feel ancient knowing Manu is 38 and thinking back to my first time seeing him live and in living color. It was the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis when I got my first glimpse of Manu after hearing so much about him prior to that event. It was actually before he suited up for the Spurs (Manu was Drafted in 1999 but his rookie season in the NBA was 2002-03), but he was the star of stars on Argentina’s team that played its way to the championship, losing to Yugoslavia in the gold medal game. Manu was as advertised, a swashbuckling and athletic shooting guard who could do it all. It was jaw-dropping, watching him play on the edge and at that breakneck pace all the time. He made the All-Tournament Team, joining Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Peja Stojakovic and Pero Cameron. Before seeing Manu live, I was not sure exactly what kind of player he’d be in the NBA. But after watching him closely throughout the course of that tournament, I was convinced he was going to be a superstar. 

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I have two. The first was seeing him at the 2002 Euro Final Four in his home gym in Bologna a few months before he joined the Spurs: He was playing the same leadership role that he would establish in San Antonio, and yet there was no big timing to him. He was a humble star even then, as a big fish in the small pond. The other was during a regular season game in Boston last season which the Spurs were winning handily. Ginobili missed a 3 at the third-quarter buzzer and reacted as if a playoff game had been lost. After all of these years it was amazing to see him caring so much about such an inconsequential play. But that’s also why he has been so important.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog: I’m not sure I have a single Ginobili moment. Maybe when he swatted that bat that time on opening night? When he dunked on Yao Ming? One thing I think about whenever I think of Ginobili — or GINOBILI! — is how he always seems to be going diagonally while everyone else is going up and down or side to side. I don’t know how Ginobili figured this out — is he a master of geometry? — but somehow it works, and it works every time.

Morning Shootaround — July 27


VIDEO: The NBA’s connections in Africa are as strong as they are deep, courtesy of Basketball Without Borders

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reluctant Popovich is a “lifer” | Cavaliers finally complete Haywood deal | Lillard “not a part of” USA Basketball plans | Longtime Lakers trainer Vitti set to retire

No. 1: Reluctant Pop is a “lifer” — His life is much more than just basketball, but that doesn’t mean San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will escape the lifelong grip the game of basketball has on so many. Pop almost escaped in recent years, but a huge free agent summer (LaMarcus Aldridge and David West join, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard all sign new deals, etc.) will keep him on the sideline for the foreseeable future. It turns out that Pop will end up being a “lifer” (like his mentor and good friend Larry Brown) after all, as the great Buck Harvey of the Express News details:

Popovich goes to Africa this week to coach an exhibition game, proof the energy inside this 66-year-old man is real. It’s also proof he is far past the challenge he faced last year, when both his health and the health of his franchise were in doubt.

His hip surgery had gone well, but there was a hiccup with a heart condition that was not unlike the atrial fibrillation that Fab Oberto had. Popovich underwent a procedure, and, after he had done everything the doctors had asked, palpitations returned.

Brown says the episode occurred during the preseason tour in Europe. That eventually culminated with Popovich missing two games in late November for a second procedure.

“I really believe he was close to retiring then,” Brown said.

What if Popovich had been forced to walk away? Would Tim Duncan have returned for another season? Would LaMarcus Aldridge have ever considered signing with the Spurs?

The same dynamic is also in place for a healthy Popovich. The Spurs aren’t the Spurs without him. He stays, in part, because he feels an obligation to.

Popovich long ago told Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker he would coach them through the end of their careers, although Parker gave him an out. Given that he’s younger than Duncan and Ginobili, Parker told Popovich he would understand if he retired earlier than he did.

But the obligation went further this summer. How could Popovich sell Aldridge on the franchise, and on the culture of winning he had created, if he said he might not stick around?

This was never the way Popovich saw his life playing out. For all the success he has had, and so much he never could have imagined, he couldn’t shake the idea there was more than basketball out there.

He said almost a decade ago, for example, he wasn’t built like a Jerry Sloan. And in a recent ESPN article he revealed this was his thinking after the 2013 Finals:

“I thought about retiring. Not so much because of the loss, but because there are other things to do in life.”

He went through similar soul-searching after the 2014 championship. Popovich talked to Brown about it then.

Brown, 74 and eager to begin another season at SMU, calls himself a lifer. Brown acknowledges he and his good friend are different on this.

“Pop can separate himself better than I can,” he said.

But Brown thought leaving a year ago would have been a mistake. He told Popovich to wait before making a decision, and Brown asked him this question:

“You just won a championship. Who is going to follow you?”

This gets back to his obligation. Leave, and the Spurs are forever changed.

***

No. 2: Cavaliers finally complete Haywood deal — The move surprised no one. Brendan Haywood has been caught in trade rumors since the February trade deadline. So the Cavaliers finally moving the veteran big man, in a deal for trade exceptions of $10.5 and $2.85 million and two future 2nd round Draft Pick, is no surprise. The addition of veteran swingman and LeBron James friend, collaborator and confidant Mike Miller, was an added twist that comes as a mild surprise. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group provides some context:

The Cavaliers had a deadline of Aug. 1 to trade or release Haywood before his salary for the 2015-16 season became guaranteed. Portland will waive Haywood before the guaranteed deadline.

Haywood’s departure was inevitable. He played a grand total of 119 minutes for the club last season. The shocker of the transaction is Miller’s involvement.

Statistically, all across the board, Miller just endured the worst season of his 15-year NBA career.

A league source says Miller approved the trade, as he wanted to play for a team where he would have a chance to see significant minutes. Miller will seek a buyout from the rebuilding Trail Blazers to pursue a team that will promise him a spot in a rotation.

Miller exercised his $2.8 million player option for next season at the end of June.

He is a great friend of LeBron James. The four-time MVP recruited Miller last offseason to provide shooting assistance, but he never found his shooting stroke and David Blatt was reluctant to commit playing time to the veteran.

I’m told James understand Miller’s situation and is “OK with the move.” He was not OK with the Miami Heat when they traded Miller to Memphis in the summer of 2013 in order to avoid major luxury tax penalties.

Times have changed.

***

No. 3: Lillard “not a part of” USA Basketball plans — For all of the stars who are set to attend USA Basketball’s minicamp next month in Las Vegas, there is one who seems to have little interest in going through the process again. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been there and done that and does not feel like he’s in the program’s master plan after missing out on a roster spot last year. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian has more:

It appears that one Trail Blazers player will participate in an August minicamp for USA Basketball. But it won’t be Damian Lillard.

According to ESPN, center Mason Plumlee has been invited to participate in a three-day minicamp for the US National Team that will take place next month in Las Vegas. It will be the second consecutive summer that Mason, who played on Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, will don red, white and blue.

His participation in next month’s event ensures that he will have the chance to make the 12-man team that will represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Meanwhile, it appears that Lillard, the Blazers’ All-Star point guard, will not participate in next month’s minicamp. During a Saturday night appearance on CBS Radio, Lillard told host Jody Mac he would “probably not” play.

“I did it the last few summers and last summer I didn’t make it,” Lillard said, when Mac asked why he wouldn’t participate. “I don’t know why I would go. After I got cut last summer, I don’t think I’m a part of it.”

Lillard did not respond to a text message from The Oregonian/OregonLive seeking comment.

Last summer, Lillard was one of the final cuts on the FIBA World Cup team. And while he publicly expressed appreciation for the chance to represent his country — and said he was not “worried or down about the situation” — he privately felt slighted by his omission from the team.

“More wood on the fire,” Lillard told The Oregonian/OregonLive last summer. “Not my first time being put off and probably not the last.”

***

No. 4: Longtime Lakers trainer Vitti set to retire — A golden era will come to an end after next season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, Kobe Bryant is entering the final year of his contract. But it’s longtime trainer Gary Vitti, a fixture on the sideline in Los Angeles for decades dating back to the Magic Johnson and “Showtime Lakers,” who is retiring. Again, this will mark the end of an era, as Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times reports. Kurt Helin of Probasketballtalk.com summarizes the scope of Viti’s time with the Lakers:

Vitti, a part of the Laker fabric, talked about it with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“From a basketball standpoint, the greatest championship would be 1985, the first time we beat Boston,” Vitti said as he slowly consumed an open-faced gyro at an upscale Manhattan Beach restaurant near his home. “We lost to the Celtics the year before and should have beat them. A lot of my interview with Riley was him talking about that. He said to me, ‘We need to win.’”

Vitti has had a special place within the Lakers. He’s a liaison between the players and coaches/front office. He sits close to Byron Scott on the bench. It’s a job he has grown into and is passionate about. When the Lakers health fortunes turned on the team in the past few years, some of the louder than smart Lakers fans online blamed Vitti. Wiser fans knew that what happened to Steve Nash’s nerves, Kobe’s Achilles, Julius Randle‘s leg, and on down the list were not on the training staff.

Vitti could have stayed on as long as he wanted. But it’s time, he said.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kevin Love and Kevin Durant both to attend USA Basketball minicamp, though they are not expected to play in exhibition gameDennis Rodman defends his former tag team partner Hulk Hogan … The Lakers’ Nick Young, aka“Swaggy P” is still trying to come to grips with the fact that he was serious trade bait this summer …

Morning Shootaround — July 26


VIDEO: New Indiana Pacers swingman Glenn Robinson III leads the top 10 dunks from Summer League

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant’s health on the mind in OKC | Robinson III goes home with Pacers | Melo ready for USA Basketball minicamp | Pressure is on Jazz’s Burke

No. 1: Durant’s health on the mind in OKC — The obvious and most intriguing storyline in Oklahoma City remains Kevin Durant‘s health and availability for the start of training camp with the Thunder. Sure, there’s a new coach (Billy Donovan), the starting lineup to sort out and several other items of note. But it’s all about Durant right now, as members of the staff at the Oklahoman discuss (Blogtable style) here:

Darnell Mayberry (beat writer): Who will be the starting shooting guard and center. We grew accustomed to Scott Brooks’ way of doing things after seven seasons. His starting lineup was incredibly consistent and as a result became unbelievably predictable. But with first-year coach Billy Donovan we have no idea which direction the Thunder will go at shooting guard and center. Most assume Steven Adams will start. But who knows? And there’s not even educated guesses at this point about the starting shooting guard. With the Thunder set to return with the deepest team it’s ever had, the decisions Donovan makes regarding his first five will be what intrigues me most.

Anthony Slater (beat writer): The starting lineup and, more specifically, Andre Roberson’s role. Regardless of who starts at center, Adams and Kanter will play a ton. But if someone — Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow — usurps Roberson it may slice him from the rotation entirely. That could potentially free up some early opportunity for Cam Payne to get a test run or some intriguingly tall and lengthy units with Kyle Singler at the two. Shooting guard is the spot to watch.

Jenni Carlson (columnist): The health of the masses. Obviously, Kevin Durant is at the top of the list, but so many guys had so many issues that I’ll be curious to see how all of them look. You never anticipate lingering issues with procedures such as knee scopes, but you never know until you see. And of course, where Durant is in his recovery is paramount. The video evidence circulating out there on the interwebs is encouraging, but I’m sure everyone would like to see it with their own eyes.

Berry Tramel (columnist): Kevin Durant’s health. The Kanter/Adams minutes breakdown won’t be known until the real games begin. But we can see Durant’s progress from the foot problems in the exhibitions. If he’s healthy, the world is a bright and wondrous place. If he’s still hobbled, gloom, despair and agony on us all.

***

No. 2: Robinson III goes home with Pacers — Who says you can’t go home, or at least close to it? Glenn Robinson III, the former Michigan star and son of former NBA star Glenn Robinson, is headed back to his native Indiana on a three-year deal with the Pacers. Robinson III gives the Pacers an athletic swingman that fits perfectly with the up-tempo style Pacers boss Larry Bird wants his team to play going forward. Robinson III also pushes the Pacers’ roster to the 15-player limit allowed. Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star has more:

Can’t wait to continue my journey in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers,” he tweeted, “couldn’t be more excited to play at home!! #OverlyDedicated

Robinson, 21, left the University of Michigan after his sophomore season and was selected 40th by Minnesota in the 2014 draft. It’s a three-year deal, his agents Austin Brown and Aaron Mintz told Yahoo Sports.

Robinson gives the Pacers 15 players under contract, the maximum they can keep during the regular season.

He fits the team’s plan to play faster and acquire more versatile players, providing depth on the wing. However, he averaged just 2.1 points in 35 games as rookie playing for two of the league’s worst teams in Philadelphia and Minnesota.

More curious is the move leaves Indiana with one player who has regularly played point guard in the NBA, George Hill. They will almost certainly bring additional point guards to training camp, but the team would have to release a player currently under contract to keep one. Expect Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey to serve as the team’s backup point guards. Second-round draft pick Joe Young could also see time at the point.

Robinson averaged 13.1 points and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore at Michigan. Minnesota waived him during the season, Philadelphia picked him up but made him a free agent when it declined to make him a qualifying offer.

***

No. 3: Melo ready for USA Basketball minicamp — Count Carmelo Anthony among the NBA stars who plan to attend USA Basketball’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week as they begin preparations for the next year of competition. The New York Knicks’ star is not cleared for full involvement after February surgery, but he plans on being there alongside the rest of the stars in the program, writes Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News:

In a sign that Carmelo Anthony should be ready for the start of training camp, the Knicks’ $124 million man plans to attend a USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas from Aug. 11-13 as part of the build-up for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.

Next month’s event will serve as a “reunion” for former players who have played in the USA Basketball system, with non-contact workouts on the docket, culminating with a sort of all-star game featuring the top players, according to ESPN.com.

However, since Anthony is still recuperating from February’s surgery on his left knee to repair a torn patellar tendon, he’s not expected to participate in all the activities.

The Knicks told the Daily News in an email on Friday they are OK with his involvement in the minicamp. Anthony was given a timeline of 4-to-6 months to return from surgery.

While he is back to doing basketball activities such as shooting, Anthony is still not at full strength.

USA Basketball hasn’t finalized its list of camp invitees but expects a number of key players to attend even if they are injured as a way for the organization to get a sense of who wants to go for gold next summer, ESPN.com said.

“I think it’s important for those who want to continue with us and be under consideration for ’16 to be with us in Las Vegas for a couple days,” USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo told ESPN.com. “It’s going to be low key. Light workouts, no contact and then play an all-star game. No concern about competitiveness. We’re not evaluating anyone.”

***

No. 4: Pressure is on Jazz’s Burke — It’s one thing to make it to the NBA, be you a lottery pick, an undrafted free agent or anything between. It’s another altogether to thrive in the NBA, as Utah point guard and former college player of the year Trey Burke is finding out during his journey. Changes in the coaching ranks and philosophy, not to mention personnel, have put Burke squarely in the crosshairs for a Jazz team eyeing a move up the ranks in the rugged Western Conference. That makes his upcoming and third NBA season Burke’s most pressure-packed, to date. Kincade Upstill of The Deseret News provides some insight into Burke’s struggles:

Since being drafted by the Jazz, Burke’s jump shot has only made a few appearances. After his rookie season, he averaged 41 percent from 2-point range and a very unimpressive 33 percent from behind the arc. He was given a pass on his poor shooting as a rookie who needed to adjust to the NBA game; plus head coach Ty Corbin wasn’t known for development then and was let go shortly after the season’s end.

Then came in new head coach Quin Snyder, a former point guard who is known for player development. Former Jazz man Demarre Carroll credits Snyder with helping him improve his game and his jumper. The Jazz also hired Patrick Beilein, son of John Beilein, who was Burke’s college coach. Beilein was brought in as the Jazz’s shot doctor. The 2014-15 season seemed like it would be a brighter year for Burke.

But his poor shooting only got worse. Burke’s 3-point shot dropped to 31 percent. His 2-point shot also fell to 40 percent. Why has Burke struggled so much with his jump shot that has been a hindrance to his career? In college, Burke’s shot was pretty good, averaging almost 37 percent from three and 50 percent from two. Every indication is that he’s a hard worker and puts in the time to improve.

An article in Grantland by Kirk Goldsberry named Burke one of the league’s least-efficient shooters. One of the main reasons Burke’s percentage is so low is his inability to finish at the rim. Goldsberry wrote, “The Jazz have one of the least effective finishing guards in the league: When Burke attacks the rim, opposing interior defenders morph into [Rudy] Gobert.” Burke averaged only 42 percent at the rim last season. But Goldsberry does give some hope for Burke, citing “[Steph] Curry, who was really bad near the rim earlier in his career, only to turn into a very good close-range finisher.” Curry has become arguably the best shooter in the league.

It shouldn’t be expected that Burke will turn into Curry, but improvement can be made. Curry struggled his first three seasons in the league around the hoop but has figured it out. Burke and Snyder worked hard on a running floater last summer (that Jazz play-by-play announcer Craig Bolerjack mentions each time it’s used) to help him be more efficient around the rim; so far Burke has struggled with the new shot.

Let’s break down Burke’s shooting numbers: In catch-and-shoot situations, he averaged 46 percent from two and 35 percent from three, which are very solid numbers; but on pull-up jumpers he only shot 40 percent from two and 18 percent from three. The highest percentage of his shots comes from pull-up jumpers that require playing one on one, which is not his strength. If the Jazz can get Burke to become more of a spot-up shooter and less of a creator, then he might become a great role player for the Jazz. Burke has been an alpha dog his whole career, and switching to a role player could be a challenge and a blow to his ego.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: No offense to Gregg Popovich, but Richie Adubato recognized Becky Hammon’s coaching potential long before she led the Spurs to the title at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas … A silver medal at the Pan-Am Games is not a setback for the movement that is Canadian basketball … As much as they love the NBA Summer League, plenty of folks in Las Vegas want “their own” team

Jimmer Fredette signs with Spurs

The Spurs have never met a shooter they didn’t like. Jimmer Fredette still carries the cachet of a big-time shooter. So the former BYU legend may be getting his last and best chance to prove that he can be a real NBA contributor with announcement that he’ll go to training camp in San Antonio.

With Marco Belinelli having gone to Sacramento in free agency, the Spurs are in need of a shooter and there is really no better system for anybody who can spot up and make than in Gregg Popovich’s offense.

Fredette spent last season with the Pelicans, appearing in 50 games, averaging 3.6 points and 1.4 assists in 10.2 minutes.

The four-year NBA veteran was originally drafted by the Bucks with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.  He was dealt to the Kings in a draft night trade where he spent two-plus seasons.  He also played for the Bulls before moving to New Orleans last season.

In 229 NBA career games, Fredette has averaged 6.1 points, 1.4 assists and 1.0 rebounds in 13.7 minutes while shooting .412 (514-1,248) from the field, .381 (192-504) from beyond the arc and .878 (187-213) from the foul line.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 206) Summer Wrap

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The end of one season and the start of the next used to be well-defined.

We’d go from the NBA regular season to the playoffs, the playoffs to the Draft and from the Draft to free agency and then on to the Summer League season before the league would go dark for at least a month or two. But no more.

The blending of the seasons in the NBA is complete. And it’s all one great big glorious blur of hoops hysteria that feeds the insatiable appetites of the masses. There’s no sense in complaining about it, this non-stop barrage of games, Drafts, free agent fevers, Summer League’s and the like. It’s best to buckle up and just go along for the ride.

Besides, what would your summer have been like without Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Kristap Porzingis and the rest of the incoming rookie class? Or headline makers like DeAndre Jordan, Mark Cuban, Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, Chandler Parsons and everyone else involved in the Clippers-Mavericks free agent drama?

And that’s just the beginning of the conversation that includes an endless supply of moves and rumored moves (DeMarcus Cousins is still a member of the Sacramento Kings, as of this moment) that have kept our cups running over this summer.

Now we’re debating which comes first, a lady in the Oval Office (perhaps a Clinton …) or one on the bench as a pioneer as the first female head coach (Becky Hammon, anyone …) in the NBA?

How we got from the Golden State Warriors and KIA MVP Steph Curry winning it all for the first time in 40 years to Seth Curry stealing the show in the Las Vegas Summer League in roughly a month’s time is anyone’s guess. But we do our best to sort through it all, and more, on Episode 206 of the Hang Time Podcast … Summer Wrap!

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: Expectations are soaring for Kristap Porzingis after the New York Knicks’ rookie impressed at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas

Blogtable: First woman coach or president?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on new playoff seeding? | 2015-16 All-Bench Team | First woman coach or president?



VIDEO: Impact of Becky Hammon

> What will we see first: a woman in an NBA head coach’s office, or a woman in the oval office?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThis question risks getting political, which would violate the Michael Jordan rule of sports — that is, Democrats and Republicans both spend money on the NBA — so it serves no good purpose alienating either. From a simple timeline standpoint, if there’s no woman in the White House by January 2017, it probably wouldn’t happen until January 2021 at the earliest — by which time Becky Hammon or someone else certainly would have been hired (and, demonstrating true equality in that profession, maybe even fired by then too). My one hope is that, whichever happens first, it happens because of merit, not symbolism.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: How about we just vote Becky Hammon president and let her appoint Gregg Popovich as Secretary of Snarling?  I’m going with the Oval Office.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI like Hillary Clinton’s chances better than Becky Hammon’s. And speaking of Hammon, I want to see her on the bench one day soon, but would hate if she’s rushed along just for the sake of making history. Hammon has only been an assistant coach for one season and doesn’t even sit next to Popovich on the Spurs’ bench yet. By comparison, Mike Budenholzer spent 16 years on the Spurs’ bench before taking the Hawks’ job (and winning Coach of the Year).

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: A Spurs assistant coach doesn’t need to be in the chair next to Gregg Popovich to get poached by another team (see Jacque Vaughn to Orlando), and Becky Hammon’s Summer League experience definitely accelerates her progress toward a head coaching job. But I’ll still go with the Oval Office, because there’s a decent chance of happening in January of 2017.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIt pains me that this question still needs to be asked in 2015. Seriously. They are both long overdue. But I’m going with the Oval Office, mostly because of the competency of the candidate already neck-deep in the race. The fact is, any knuckledragger still underestimating the ability of someone of any gender, race, creed or color to do the job needs to be voted off the island. I’ve listened for days now about people worrying that a female coach might not be able to connect in a NBA locker room and struggling to garner respect from her potential peers and others. It’s garbage. Every coach is going to face that challenge at one time or another. And while we’re on the subject, no woman will be able to prove those foolish theories wrong until someone in the decision-making ranks musters the courage to give her the shot. Just saying.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Right now you have to say that Hillary Clinton is closer to her goal than Becky Hammon is to hers — but someday there will be women in both chairs.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All-Ball BlogEither way, I think we’re going to see one of these happen soon. Forced to choose, my guess is we get a woman president first, maybe even next year. Becky Hammon obviously proved her worth as an NBA coach, but winning a Summer League title isn’t an automatic guarantee of success as an NBA coach, or even a direct ticket to a head coaching gig. Although put to a public vote, I suspect there are a few fanbases that might vote to give Hammon a chance immediately.

Spurs’ Anderson picking up his pace

VIDEO: Kyle Anderson led the Spurs with 25 points.

LAS VEGAS – Upholding the San Antonio Spurs’ tradition of veteran leadership, Kyle Anderson pulled his teammates together for a defensive last stand against Brooklyn Thursday. As the Nets worked the ball for a potential game-tying shot, as the seconds ticked off and the tension mounted, it was Anderson lunging out to contest Markel Brown‘s 3-point attempt from out front to preserve the 74-71 outcome.

Anderson, admittedly, is only 21. But he also is the only member of his summer squad with Spurs experience, which gives him seniority. And it showed at the Thomas & Mack Center in this one, as it has all week in Las Vegas and in the Salt Lake City summer games before these.

It is a pivotal offseason for Anderson, the 6-foot-9 small forward who contributions as a rookie were modest (2.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 10.8 minutes, 33 appearances). San Antonio’s roster has been reconfigured around additions such as LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, and a new pecking order likely will emerge among the altered cast of reserves.

For Anderson to have an impact among them, he needed to improve in every way. And that is what he’s been showing, in skill and in assertiveness.

“On that last defensive possession, he’s the one who rallied everybody on the court,” said Becky Hammon, the Spurs assistant serving as head coach here. “He’s the one who’s speaking, he’s the one being more demonstrative in a leadership role. And that’s really what we want to see from him in this setting.”

On a veteran-laden team, no one expected Anderson – the last player picked in the 2014 first round out of UCLA – to play a significant role. But the Spurs have expectations, which explains the hours Anderson has logged since San Antonio was eliminated by the Clippers in the first round.

“He’s put in a ton of work with [shooting coach] Chip Engelland, with [development coach] Chad Forcier during our NBA season,” Hammon said. “He’s been in the gym a lot. He knows our system the best [among summer leaguers], he knows those conversations that coaches have had with him and what’s expected of him, and he has absolutely stepped up and taken control of that.

“We’re happy with what he’s doing right now. We’re going to keep leaning on him a lot.”

Matched up with Brooklyn first-round pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Anderson scored 25 points on 10-of-22 shooting – he’s averaging 22.3 points – and chipped in a couple assists. He grabbed eight rebounds, seven on the defensive end, and had two blocks and one steal, defensive stats that indicate desired progress on that end of the floor, too.

Developing defensively in the offseason, often in a gym alone, isn’t as straight-forward as putting up 200 jump shots or free throws to hone a stroke.

“You can learn a lot defensively by watching tape,” Hammon said. “A lot of it, it’s just footwork and concentration. There are simple things, like angles, little things that maybe you can compensate for your lack of speed or athleticism. There are lots of ways to get better defensively other than doing slides in the gym.”

Said Anderson: “For me, it’s being in an athletic stance. Actually being athletic is the problem with me. I think most guys struggle with where to be. I think I know where to be, it’s just a matter of doing it.”

Anderson flashed another skill that caught by surprise anyone familiar with his “Slow-Mo” nickname: Several times he grabbed defensive rebounds and immediately dribbled downcourt. Once, he went end to end, dropping in a little hook shot.

Asked about the play, Anderson laughed.

“Yeah, that’s part of my skill set really,” he said. “Grab a board and being able to start our offense, just like that with the dribble or the advance pass. That’s something I look to do.”

Gregg Popovich would be OK with that in the regular season?

“As long as I don’t turn it over.”

Anderson did sound a little weary from the frequent references to his slowness afoot. This is a game, after all, in which coaches constantly tell players not to rush. Superstars are lauded for their ability to “slow the game down.”

“That’s just a nickname really,” the Spurs forward said. “I don’t play that way on purpose. I guess it’s deceptive.

“There’s not a rule you have to play fast.”

Based on this summer, at least, Anderson figures to get where he’s going.