Posts Tagged ‘San Anotonio Spurs’

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: Top 4 Seed Ripe For Upset?

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

Week 25: Sacramento or Seattle? | Lottery team leap next season | Top 4 seed ripe for upset

Which Top 4 team is most ripe for a first-round upset?

Steve Aschburner: San Antonio hasn’t looked like its old self lately. Indiana seemed to spit out the bit early. But for one-and-done among the top seeds, I’m looking at Brooklyn. C’mon, the Nets are a “Top 4” team by math only, tin medalists in an Eastern Conference Olympics that has one gold-medal club and two more duking it out for silver and bronze. The Nets have had a fine season and a playoff series is a nice way to punctuate the inaugural year in the borough. But they don’t have the defensive gear into which they can shift, in my view. I’ve seen Joe Johnson in recent postseasons (40.5 FG percent the past three). And if their opponent is Chicago — and the Bulls have reasonable healthiness from Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and the rest — even the absence of Derrick Rose might not to get the Nets to south Florida for Round 2. Now if the Nets face Atlanta … nah, I’m still saying Brooklyn.

Fran Blinebury: I would hardly consider any outcome in a 4-5 series to be an upset, so that leaves out the Nets and Clippers and brings us to San Antonio.  If Manu Ginobili is back soon and the Spurs stay healthy, they are a threat to go to The Finals and likely the toughest overall matchup for Miami. But if Manu isn’t Manu, Tony Parker is limping and they draw the Lakers, the Spurs are vulnerable.

Jeff Caplan: Well, I’ve got a crisp Benjamin that me and my cohorts all pick the same squad: San Antonio. Manu Ginobili is hurt, Boris Diaw is hurt, Danny Green remains unproven under the hot lights of the playoffs, Stephen Jackson is counting his Benjamins somewhere far away and Tony Parker is battling through all kinds of ailments. Houston or Golden State could do the deed. In the East, how can Chicago be counted out against suddenly struggling Indiana or Boston against New York if Knicks big men Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin struggle with lingering injuries?

Scott Howard-Cooper: The Nets if they play the Bulls. Because Chicago is ripe to pick somebody no matter who it plays in the first round. Bulls-Pacers could be a good one.

John Schuhmann: It’s got to be the Nets, especially if they’re matched up with Chicago, against whom they couldn’t score in their four regular-season meetings. Brooklyn hasn’t shown any kind of defensive consistency all season, and as well as they’ve played offensively over the last few weeks, a good defensive team (like the Bulls) will take advantage of the fact that they’re starting two guys who can’t shoot – Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans – at the forward positions. I’d still pick the Nets in that series, but they’re obviously the most vulnerable top-4 seed in the East. In the West, I fear for whoever — the Nuggets or Clips — has to face the Grizzlies, who are the second-best defensive team in the league and who have been much improved offensively since the Rudy Gay trade.

Sekou Smith: Can we pick two teams? The 4-5 matchup on both sides leaves the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets most vulnerable. The Clippers could be in serious trouble against the Memphis Grizzlies, whose frontcourt bruisers will be eager to go at Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the playoffs for the second straight postseason. The Nets will have their hands full with either the Atlanta Hawks or the Chicago Bulls, two teams that have all the firepower needed to attack the Nets’ weak spots. Home-court advantage doesn’t always serve as the force field needed for the No. 4 seed. And in these matchups in particular, home court could be rendered irrelevant early on.

Tony Parker Is Back On The Beam

It was a simple question asked of Tony Parker back on media day when the Spurs opened training camp.

How do you follow the best season of your career?

“By doing it again,” he replied with that twinkle in his eyes.

One of those eyes, of course, was reason for concern after being hit with the sliver of glass during the infamous New York bar fight involving Drake and Chris Brown.

There was also fretting over whether he’d suffer a post-Olympic letdown and the natural inclination to wonder if the physically smallest member of the Spurs’ Big Three could continue to carry the load night after night.

No need to wonder any longer.

On the first three games of the Spurs’ Eastern road trip, Parker has put up 26, 33 and 32 points and has rediscovered the spark from last season.

The solution was basic: putting the ball into the basket. Through the first 11 games of the season, Parker had been getting his usual penetration into the lane and launching his regular share of his trademark teardrop shot. But many of those shorts just were not falling. Parker made only half his field goal attempts once in those first 11 games.

But over the past three, Parker’s range-finder has been dialed in as he’s hit 14-for-27, 15-for-23 and 12-for-17 in beating Boston, Indiana and Toronto.

This is the continuation of the Spurs’ metamorphosis from an offense build around Tim Duncan’s low-post presence into an attack that flows off Parker’s raw speed, ability to get into the lane and spread the ball around to his open teammates in transition.

It is a transformation that is necessary not only from a calendar point of view — notwithstanding the ageless performance of the 36-year-old Duncan — but to keep the Spurs evolving and moving forward in an era when the defending champions in Miami play a full-court game with five undefined positions. It is a style that minimizes the wear-and-tear on Duncan and maximizes the skill of Parker and even has all the faith of his career-long antagonist, coach Gregg Popovich.

“Absolutely. He knows what we expect out of him,” Popovich said.”

It is never going to be politically correct to call them Tony’s Team as long as the tent post Duncan is holding up the roof on the entire show. Parker is now the ringmaster more than ever and that means any bumps in the road will be attributed to him.

While it might have been easy to conclude that Parker was performing at a level below a year ago at the start of the season, there were other considerations. San Antonio’s top two forwards, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson, are sidelined due to ailments and fire-starter Manu Ginobili has struggled to find any kind of consistent rhythm since opening season on the injured list with a back problem. Parker, quite plainly, had fewer options at his disposal at the point.

In the last three games, it seems he has taken it upon himself to go on the attack and not let up. Parker not only played 46 minutes in the Spurs’ double-overtime win at Toronto on Sunday, but ultimately seized control of a game that was up for grabs. He got all the way to the hoop for a pair of layups in the first OT and then knocked down a couple of pull-up jumpers in the second OT that finished off the Raptors.

Just like that, the numbers are back to the level of last season’s superlatives and his assist percentage and assist/turnover rate are at a career best.

So never mind the fretting or the wondering. It’s a simple answer.

How does Tony Parker follow the best season of his career?

Just like this.