The race for the final playoff spot(s) in the Western Conference will continue tonight, when the Lakers play the Bucks in Milwaukee and the Mavericks host the Pacers in Dallas. As we look forward to those games, let's round up a few Thursday items out of the conference....
With Mike Krzyzewski likely having coached in his last Olympics, there's a "near-unanimous feeling in basketball circles" that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is the logical choice to replace him for 2016, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. But a source briefed on internal discussions regarding Coach K's replacement tells Berger that Celtics coach Doc Rivers shouldn't be ruled out.
"With Doc, I think it would keep the same chemistry going," a source told Berger. "If Pop comes in, he would want his own way of doing it - kind of the Spurs' secretive way of doing things - and out of Jerry [Colangelo]'s norm."
As Rivers and the Celtics prepare for tomorrow night's game against the Warriors, let's check in on a few other items from around the Atlantic Division:
The Bucks sit atop the Central Division two weeks into the season, and with the Bulls missing Derrick Rose and the Pacers without Danny Granger, there's a chance they might stay in first place for a while. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis can become free agents next summer, but they're off to a strong start in their first full season as teammates, observes Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Nonetheless, Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group predicts Ellis won't be with the Bucks next year (Twitter link). While we wait to see how Milwaukee's situation plays out, there's news on Rose and others on a six-game night in the Association.
The Nuggets participated in the biggest trade of the offseason, getting Andre Iguodala in the four-team swap that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers, and Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com speculates that GM Masai Ujiri might not be done dealing. Howard-Cooper, replying to a fan question on Twitter, says he thinks the team will look to move a wing player or a power forward to alleviate logjams at those positions, but cautions that Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, each of whom is owed more than $30MM, are not likely trade candidates. Here's the rest of the news from the Association with less than a month to go before the start of training camp:
The 2016 Summer Olympics may be four full years away, but with London's games behind us, it's not too early to start looking ahead to Rio de Janeiro. NBA players are expected to maintain Olympic eligibility at least through 2016, so Tom Zeller of SBNation.com provides an early preview of what Team USA's roster might look like in Brazil. Zeller predicts we could see five new faces on 2016's squad, including plenty of players who missed the London games due to injuries: Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kyrie Irving.
Here are a few more Monday odds and ends from around the NBA:
Mike Krzewzyski is set to step down as head coach of USA Basketball. He will finish with an all-time record of 62-1. Following the USA's victory over Spain to capture the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics, people including LeBron James and Doc Rivers weighed in on who should be his successor.
James and Rivers both endorse San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to succeed Krzewzyski, although Rivers adds that Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins would also be a strong candidate, and that Rivers himself would accept the position if offered to him.
Who do you think should coach Team USA going forward? Should it be Rivers, Popovich, Collins, or someone else? Share your thoughts in the comments.
4:40pm: FIBA unveiled a few proposals it will take to the International Olympic Committee, and one of them is designed to address concerns NBA teams have had about the wear and tear of the Olympic competition by shortening its length, Zillgitt writes (via the Detroit Free Press). FIBA wants to increase the number of teams from 12 to 16 and reduce the number of games in pool play from five to three.
"It's certainly wear and tear - 19 days of London, plus the preparation time," said Baumann, the FIBA secretary general. "When you finish the (NBA) season on 20 of June, the beginning of July you are in Las Vegas, by the end of July you are here and by the time you get home and put your things down in a cupboard, that's a pretty long time."
2:45pm: FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann today told reporters, including USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, that he feels his organization will not propose an age limit for the 2016 Olympic games (Twitter link). Ian Thomsen of SI.com reported earlier this week that a 23-and-under restriction was unlikely for 2016, but Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears the NBA will keep pushing for an age limit. A source tells Stein "this will eventually happen" despite FIBA's resistance.
Part of FIBA's unwillingness to restrict older players from the Olympics is the feeling that doing so would make Team USA even more dominant, Stein writes, adding that many from overseas feel American players generally develop faster.
Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo has expressed a desire to know soon whether or not the age limit will be in place for 2016. Colangelo said that he will make multiple rosters for each contingency, Stein reports. Colangelo is not sure that Mike Krzyzewski can be persuaded to return as coach for 2016, despite lobbying from players, but is more optimistic that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will be back (All Twitter links).
Baumann said he would like to move basketball's World Cup, formerly known as the World Championships, back a year to avoid conflict with soccer's World Cup, Zillgitt tweets, meaning the 2018 competition might not take place until 2019. NBA commissioner David Stern has spoken about making the World Cup of Basketball the marquee international basketball competition instead of the Olympics.
This week may not represent your last chance to watch LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and other NBA stars play Olympic basketball after all. The NBA continues to push for an age limit for men's basketball at the Olympics, but according to Ian Thomsen of SI.com, such a rule is unlikely to be instituted in time for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
Commissioner David Stern and the NBA have hoped to create a new World Cup of Basketball that features the game's biggest stars, while modifying Olympic play to include only 23-and-under players. That plan is still in the works and could be in place by the 2020 games, but according to Thomsen, it's "highly unrealistic" that FIBA will move quickly to introduce an age limit by 2016. Thomsen points out that the involvement of the International Olympic Committee would complicate talks, and that the new rule would "require the ratification of 213 national basketball federations around the world."
Whether or not NBA stars are still playing for Team USA in Brazil in 2016, managing director Jerry Colangelo hopes to oversee the U.S. basketball program through those Olympics. Asked by SI.com if he planned to continue representing Team USA for another four years, Colangelo replied, "Yes, I think so."