2023 World Cup

Kerr Considered Favorite To Succeed Popovich As Team USA Coach

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Gregg Popovich as the head coach of Team USA, league sources tell Marc Stein of Substack. Popovich, the Spurs‘ head coach, is stepping down from his position with USA Basketball following his team’s gold medal victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

USA Basketball is undergoing some changes this year, with Grant Hill recently succeeding Jerry Colangelo as the managing director of the program. Naming a new head coach is the first major move that Hill will have to make as part of his new role. He said earlier this month that he hopes to finalize the decision before the start of the NBA regular season on October 19.

As Stein writes, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is viewed as another strong candidate for Team USA’s head coaching position, but Kerr has more international experience, having served as an assistant to Popovich during the 2019 FIBA World Cup as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Spoelstra was involved in the lead-up to the Olympics as well, coaching the U.S. Select Team, but he wasn’t part of the group that traveled to Tokyo.

Kerr’s experience coaching several star players in Golden State and competing in five consecutive NBA Finals makes him a natural fit to manage Team USA’s star-studded rosters and to handle the pressure of international competitions. He also recently confirmed that he’d have interest in the job.

“Of course I’d be interested. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I’ll leave it at that,” Kerr told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic in August. “I have no idea how it will all transpire; there are a lot of great candidates out there. And if I were to be considered, that would be an honor.”

And-Ones: 2023 World Cup, Offseason Grades, M. Miller

The draw for the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers took place on Tuesday. According to a press release from FIBA, Team USA’s qualifying group in the Americas event will include Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba.

The 2023 World Cup will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia two years from now, while the first qualifying matches will take place in November 2021. During the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, Team USA fielded a team made up of G League standouts, since those events overlapped with the NBA season. That roster made up of NBAGL vets put up a 10-2 record in qualifying games, so I’d expect a similar approach this time around.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In a pair of Insider-only stories for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton handed out offseason grades for all the teams in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The Hawks and Wizards were the two teams to earn an A, while the Cavaliers and Pelicans were the only two to receive a D.
  • Former Raptors forward Malcolm Miller has signed with Italian team Vanoli Cremona for the 2021/22 season, the club announced in a press release. Miller appeared in 53 total games across three seasons with Toronto from 2017-20 and was a member of the championship squad in 2019.
  • Although the NBA’s 2021/22 schedule will still include some MLB-style two-game sets between the same teams in the same arena, there will be just 23 of them this season, compared to 84 in 2020/21, writes Marc Stein (subscription required). As Stein explains, not playing in front of fans last season – along with a desire to reduce travel – made those sets a logical addition to the schedule, but the league was less motivated to include them this time around.

And-Ones: Webber, Forbes List, World Cup, EYBL

Chris Webber may have been passed over again for the Hall of Fame, but former college teammate Jalen Rose is confident that he will get there, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic. Rose, who hosts a talk show on ESPN, played alongside Webber for two years at Michigan as part of the groundbreaking Fab Five.

“Webb shouldn’t spend a second worrying about that — it’s going to happen,” Rose said. “And also, it’s well deserved. And it’s the basketball Hall of Fame, so he’ll get in. He should get in solely on his impact with the Fab Five because the Fab Five should be in. If you just took his high school and his pro (career), he should be in.”

Webber played 15 NBA seasons, finishing with career averages of 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He was named national player of the year in high school and was the top pick in the 1993 draft. However, his time at Michigan was tainted by his alleged involvement in a scandal that resulted in the Fab Five’s Final Four banners being removed.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • LeBron James is the top-ranked NBA player on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. James had $88.2MM in combined earnings, placing him fifth on the list, which is topped by tennis star Roger Federer. Stephen Curry (No. 6) and Kevin Durant (No. 7) are the only other NBA players in the top 10.
  • The FIBA World Cup 2023 board held its first planning meeting this week through video conference, according to Dario Skerletic of Sportando. The event is scheduled for August 25 to September 10, 2023, with games in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. “We were all witness to an incredible event last year in China,” said event chairman Richard Carrion. “The next FIBA Basketball World Cup will be brought to another level in 2023, taking place in Asia across three countries, and we are looking forward to the continued collaboration with these host nations.”
  • The Elite Youth Basketball League is the latest event lost because of the coronavirus, writes Jeff  Borzello of ESPN. Nike announced the cancellation Saturday, ending any hope that the competition, normally played in April and May, might take place later this year.
  • Point guard Scott Machado, who played briefly with the Lakers last season, has agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cairns Taipans in Australia, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. However, the team issued a statement saying there’s no formal agreement in place yet with Machado, who got into four games with L.A. on a 10-day contract last March.

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, Seattle, Mexico, World Cup

LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball may end up playing together in Lithuania, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who report that the Ball brothers are in “serious discussions” with Prienu Vytautas. The Lithuanian team intends to decide within the next day or two whether to officially sign Lonzo Ball‘s two younger brothers, sources tell Wojnarowski and Givony.

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, who are looking to play together for a professional team after officially hiring an agent and forgoing their NCAA eligibility, likely wouldn’t get a chance to play many minutes in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, per ESPN’s report. According to Wojnarowski and Givony, the Ball brothers would likely see more action – perhaps 20 to 25 minutes per game – in the less competitive Baltic League. As Givony tweets, the pay for the Balls would almost certainly be minimal, and the small Lithuanian town of Prienai would hardly be a “glamorous” place to continue their careers.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • TNT’s David Aldridge is the latest reporter to examine the possibility of the NBA returning to Seattle. While the city looks like a good bet to be awarded an NHL franchise, the NBA and its team owners are less gung-ho about the idea of expansion, according to Aldridge, who notes that team owners wouldn’t want to further split the money from the league’s $24 billion TV deal.
  • In a separate – and interesting – piece for NBA.com, Aldridge takes an in-depth look at the range of emotions experienced by NBA head coaches who get fired.
  • With the NBA making a concerted effort to grow its brand in Mexico, this season’s G League All-Star Game will be replaced by a contest that pits G League All-Stars against the Mexican national team, per The Associated Press.
  • FIBA officially announced on Monday that the 2023 Basketball World Cup will be staged in multiple countries, with Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines earning hosting rights..

And-Ones: Redick, Ariza, T. Robinson, J. Young

CAA Sports has picked up a pair of big new NBA clients, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal, who reports (via Twitter) that Sixers guard J.J. Redick and Rockets forward Trevor Ariza have signed on with the agency. Redick was previously represented by Wasserman, while Ariza was a Landmark Sports client.

Both Redick and Ariza are in contract years, so they’ll be in the market for new deals next July. Redick will be 34 years old at that point and Ariza will be 33, so neither player figures to get a massive long-term deal, but they’re both terrific complementary pieces who should do well in terms of annual salary.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA big man Thomas Robinson, who is currently playing for Khimki Moscow in Russia, suffered a broken hand and will miss the next three or four months of action, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. The former No. 5 overall pick, who spent time with six NBA teams, last played for the Lakers in 2016/17.
  • Having joined the Wisconsin Herd as an affiliate player for the Bucks, James Young isn’t one of the 59 players currently on a two-way contract. However, the former first-round pick has outperformed many of those two-way players in G League action so far, putting up an impressive 27.5 PPG in six games for the Herd, with a .536 FG% and 4.2 threes per game. Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days takes a closer look at Young, who is looking to play his way back into the NBA.
  • While China is set to host the 2019 Basketball World Cup, FIBA is already close to a decision on the hosts for the 2023 event. According to a press release, the 2023 World Cup will feature multiple host countries, with Argentina/Uruguay and Indonesia/Japan/Philippines as the two finalist groups. A decision is set for December 9.
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton takes a deep dive to assess what kind of career Derrick Rose might have had if not for his injury problems.