Becky Hammon

Spurs Rumors: Popovich, RFAs, Simmons, Ginobili, Young

In the years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, there had been speculation that the event would be Gregg Popovich‘s swan song. However, even after leading Team USA to gold in Japan following a one-year delay, Popovich is returning to the Spurs‘ sidelines for the 2021/22 season. And several sources who know him told Zach Lowe of ESPN in recent weeks that they wouldn’t even be surprised if Popovich sticks around for ’22/23 too.

With 26 more victories, Popovich would pass Don Nelson for the top spot on the list of the NBA’s all-time winningest coaches. Although the Spurs don’t necessarily project to be a playoff team this season, winning at least 26 games seems like a realistic goal. However, Popovich isn’t “running out the string” just to claim that record, Lowe writes.

While it remains unclear when Popovich will retire, there are some potential heir apparents within the organization, according to Lowe, who says that Will Hardy and Manu Ginobili are the two mentioned most frequently in NBA circles. Becky Hammon would also be in the mix, but Kansas coach Bill Self – previously cited as a possible candidate to succeed Popovich – has “faded” from those conversations, Lowe notes.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • The Spurs “sniffed around” restricted free agents like John Collins and Lauri Markkanen this offseason and could be an intriguing suitor for Jaren Jackson Jr. next summer if he and the Grizzlies don’t agree to an extension before then, says Lowe. The Spurs also have the assets to make a run at a player like Ben Simmons and have talked to the Sixers about him, but those discussions haven’t gotten far and it’s unclear whether San Antonio wants to re-engage with Philadelphia, sources tell ESPN.
  • The Spurs have turned down offers of single protected first-round picks for some of their core young players, Lowe reports. Lowe doesn’t name specific players, but Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker are among those who could fit the bill.
  • Popovich suggested this week that Ginobili’s new role with the Spurs will be even more wide-ranging than initially reported, as Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. “He is going to help (general manager) Brian (Wright) with management,” Popovich said of Ginobili. “He is going to help me with coaching. He is going to help the players with development. He is probably going to go scout some people. I think he is probably going to figure out a two-week trip to Italy to scout some players. I might go with him. But I am being serious — he is going to do all those things. See what he feels comfortable with. It’s just great to have him in the program for all kinds of reasons. But mainly because we love the guy. He is Manu Ginobili, so who wouldn’t want to have him around?”
  • Thaddeus Young wasn’t sure after he was traded to San Antonio whether the team intended to keep him and still doesn’t sound positive that he’ll spent the whole year with the Spurs, but he plans to be a mentor to the club’s young players as he long as he’s with the team (Twitter links via Orsborn). I am going to show up each and every day and make sure I am working, and make sure I am bringing the guys along and getting them better as well,” Young said. A previous report suggested Phoenix is among the contending teams with trade interest in the veteran forward.

And-Ones: Draft Picks, Hammon, Luxury Tax, Gortman, Spurs

Executives around the NBA don’t love the idea of having teams forfeit second-round picks as a result of tampering investigations, like the Bucks did a year ago, writes ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link). As Givony explains, the thinking is that late second-rounders don’t have a ton of value to begin with, so taking away those picks hurts would-be draftees as much as it hurts teams.

“Why are we punishing players by reducing the number of picks that are made in the NBA draft?” one executive said to Givony. “Players work their entire careers to get to the point that they can hear their names called on draft night. It’s completely unfair to them to have fewer bestowed that honor because of backroom shenanigans that are entirely out of their control.”

Givony suggests some execs would like to see the NBA find a way to avoid having fewer than 60 picks in future drafts by redistributing any forfeited picks. For instance, a team that wins a midseason tournament could earn an extra second-round pick, or a forfeited pick could be awarded to the team that employs the winner of the league’s new Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award.

“How cool would it have been if (inaugural winner) Carmelo Anthony went up to the podium at the 60th pick and announced that the Portland Trail Blazers have drafted someone?” one Eastern Conference executive said to Givony. “That would have been a great moment at Barclays Center, shedding light on the work he’s done, and tying it to the start of a young player’s NBA career, who could maybe follow in his footsteps.”

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

  • Speaking to Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon said she can’t wait for a time when it’s considered normal for NBA teams to interview and hire women for head coaching jobs. Hammon, one of the few women to receive head coaching consideration, added that she wants to be hired for the right reasons. “Please don’t hire me to check a box. That’s the worst thing you can do for me,” she said. “Hire me because of my skill sets and coaching, who am I as a person, hire me for those.”
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) provides a breakdown of the projected tax penalties for the eight teams currently above the tax line. While some clubs may shed salary over the course of the season to reduce those bills, the current numbers are staggering, especially for the Warriors ($184MM), Nets ($131MM), and Clippers ($125MM).
  • Five-star prospect Jazian Gortman, a guard based in South Carolina whom ESPN ranks fifth in the 2022 recruiting class, has signed with Overtime Elite, the league announced on Wednesday in a press release.
  • RealGM has the details on the draft picks involved in a pair of Spurs trades – with the Pacers (Doug McDermott) and Bulls (DeMar DeRozan) – this week. Most notably, the first-round pick Chicago is sending San Antonio will be top-10 protected in 2025 and top-eight protected in two subsequent years. That pick would be pushed back by a year if the Bulls’ 2023 first-rounder falls within in its top-four protection and isn’t conveyed until 2024.

And-Ones: COVID-19 Testing, Female Coaches, White, Hilliard, A-Rod

All of the players in the Finals have been tested daily for COVID-19 and none of them have returned a confirmed positive test since July 7, the NBA announced today (via Twitter). Outside of Chris Paul early in the postseason, no player has returned a positive test since the playoffs began.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • NBA players are increasingly open-minded about female coaches, but front offices remain reluctant to give one of them a shot as a head coach, according to Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the Los Angeles Times. There’s increasing pressure on the league to give Spurs assistant Becky Hammon — a finalist for the Trail Blazers job — a chance to be a head coach, but GMs in a risk-averse league keep finding reasons to pass on her and other female candidates. Having more female executives around the league could change those perceptions, Nguyen adds.
  • Former NBA big man Okaro White has signed to play with Greece’s Panathinaikos next season, Alessandro Maggi of Sportando relays. White played in Russia last season. He appeared in 41 games for the Heat in 2016-18 and saw action in three games with the Wizards in 2018/19.
  • Former NBA guard Darrun Hilliard has agreed to terms with Germany’s Bayern Munich, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando tweets. Hilliard appeared in 77 Pistons games from 2015-17 after getting drafted in the second round. He also played 14 games for the Spurs during the 2017/18 season.
  • Timberwolves buyers Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore met with the league’s Finance Committee this week, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. It’s part of the process to receive league approval for their first 20% purchase of the team. They will make multiple purchases of the franchise over the next few years until they become the controlling owners. The sale agreement was reached in mid-May. The Finance Committee is expected to recommend to the NBA’s Board of Governors that it approves the first sale.

Western Notes: Hammon, Rockets, Mobley, Giddey, Curry

Although she interviewed with the Trail Blazers twice and was identified as a finalist for the team’s head coaching position, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon sensed that she wasn’t the favorite to land the job.

“I knew I was second; I knew who they wanted,” said Hammon, who openly discussed multiple topics with Jabari Young of CNBC. “And I’m OK with that, because every race I’ve gotten into my entire life, I’ve been behind, and I’m OK with that. And that’s just how it is — but at the same time, I’m not ignorant to what I’m going up against.”

Instead of Hammon, Portland opted to hire Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups in the position. Billups was one of two preferred names mentioned by Blazers star Damian Lillard last month, immediately making him a strong candidate for the job.

“I’m not mad,” Hammon said. “This is the business, and it’s a very competitive business. But, at the end of the day, throw everything out the window — if you want to hire me, you’ll find a reason to hire me. And if you don’t want to hire me, you’ll find that reason, too. And that’s just that.”

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Atkinson, Pelicans, Blazers, Wizards

Although Penny Hardaway has reportedly emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Magic‘s head coaching job, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says Kenny Atkinson‘s name continues to be the one most frequently linked to the Orlando job.

As Fischer notes – and as has been reported elsewhere – the Magic are believed to be seeking a candidate who has previous head coaching experience. While Hardaway holds the top job at the University of Memphis, he lacks the NBA experience that Atkinson has. Sources tell Fischer that former Blazers coach Terry Stotts also remains a strong option for Orlando.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors:

  • The Pelicans‘ search is expected to continue until at least later this week, with current New Orleans assistant Fred Vinson still to be interviewed, says Fischer. However, Jacque Vaughn appears to be the frontrunner for that job, sources tell Bleacher Report. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said last week that Vaughn’s candidacy was gaining traction.
  • Trail Blazers officials were caught off guard by Damian Lillard‘s public support for Jason Kidd early in the team’s coaching search, and several staffers were surprised the All-NBA guard didn’t name former Portland assistant David Vanterpool as his preferred candidate, according to Fischer. Lillard advocated for Vanterpool to be named Minnesota’s coach following Ryan Saunders‘ dismissal earlier in the year.
  • Spurs assistant Becky Hammon impressed the Trail Blazers during the interview process, but the background intel the team got on Hammon “was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities,” Fischer writes. While team owner Jody Allen liked Hammon, there were doubts about whether she was best suited to navigate “delicate waters” with Lillard, Fischer adds.
  • Fischer says that the Wizards‘ coaching search will be “lengthy and thorough,” which suggests that Washington may end up being the last team to fill its head coaching opening.

Northwest Notes: Barton, Nuggets, D’Antoni, Rosas

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone would “love” for starting shooting guard Will Barton to return to the club in the 2021/22 season, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Barton has a $14.6MM player option.

“I would love for Will Barton to be back,” Malone said of Barton, who has been with the Nuggets since the club traded for him in a deal with the Trail Blazers during the 2014/15 season. “Everything he brings to the team. That’s on the court, off the court, in the locker room, from a culture standpoint. … He means a ton to me personally. He means a ton to this team and everything we’ve been able to accomplish these last six years. … Me, personally, I hope he’s back here for a long time.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets‘ chemistry, both on the court and on the bench, will eventually yield a title, opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. The night during which Denver was ousted from the playoffs by Suns, in a four-game second-round sweep, MVP center Nikola Jokic, head coach Michael Malone, and team owner Josh Kroenke all sat down for a drink. “When I went home that night, I said, ‘Man, we got a really unique setup here,’” Malone reflected. “We’re all disappointed, we lost, no one was happy. … But to have an owner and an MVP who are just so down to earth and committed to doing whatever it takes to be better and find ways to win a championship, those two hours were so important.” The club was without its second-best player, guard Jamal Murray, for the entirety of its playoff run. Kiszla notes that the close bond between that trio is a rare thing in pro sports.
  • Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni was perceived as the runner-up finalist to land the Trail Blazers head coaching job that is expected to go to Chauncey Billups, write Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic. Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, who would have been the first female head coach hired by a franchise in the big four American men’s sports, was the third option, Charania and Amick write.
  • Timberwolves GM Gerson Rosas handled the end of the 2020/21 season and the lead-up to last week’s lottery with the right approach, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. A mostly-healthy Minnesota team went 7-5 to close the season. Their top-three protected first-round pick fell to No. 7 in the lottery, and will be conveyed to the Warriors. Neal commends Rosas for wanting to see what the Timberwolves had under new head coach Chris Finch, rather than tanking and attempting to retain the team’s 2021 first-round pick.

Northwest Notes: Hammon, Billups, McCollum, Wolves’ Offseason

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen is pushing for Spurs assistant Becky Hammon while president of basketball operations Neil Olshey prefers Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups to be the team’s next head coach, Marc Stein of the New York Times hears. The team is conducting second interviews with both candidates with Mike D’Antoni reportedly also in the running.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • There’s a strong possibility CJ McCollum will be traded this offseason, Jason Quick of The Athletic opines. Dealing McCollum is the most logical way for the Blazers to improve, or at least shake up their roster. Olshey seems more open to breaking up his star backcourt, which has posted a 15-30 record in the playoffs. However, with three big years left on McCollum’s contract, it’s tough to know what the Blazers could get in return.
  • There were a number of reasons why the Timberwolves didn’t tank, most notably to find out how D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would mesh down the stretch, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. They also wanted to establish a culture of expectations for their youngest players. Minnesota had to convey its pick at No. 7 to Golden State after failing to move into the top three in the lottery.
  • Without a first-rounder, the Timberwolves will look to free agency and the trade market to shore up their roster, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. They’re particularly intent on upgrading the power forward spot to become a better rebounding team.

Billups, Hammon Getting Second Interviews With Blazers

Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon are among the candidates for the Trail Blazers‘ head coaching position who will interview with the team this week for a second time, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Billups and Hammon first interviewed with the Blazers last week, along with Mike D’Antoni, who also remains in the mix for the Portland job, per Wojnarowski.

According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Spurs VP of basketball operations Brent Barry are among the others who have interviewed for the vacancy. It’s unclear whether Staley, and/or Barry will receive second interviews.

Billups has frequently been cited as a frontrunner for the Blazers’ job, so it’s no surprise that he’s among the finalists. He also received an endorsement from point guard Damian Lillard following Terry Stotts‘ exit earlier this month.

The fact that Hammon remains in the running is notable — according to Charania and Amick, it’s the first time that a woman has remained under consideration in the final stages of an NBA head coaching search.

Jeff Van Gundy and Juwan Howard were among the other possible candidates who were mentioned early in the Blazers’ search process, but we haven’t heard anything about them lately. Still, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey stated that Portland’s search would be extensive, with 20-to-25 candidates receiving consideration, so there are likely many names that haven’t been reported yet — it’s possible some of them have advanced to the second stage of the club’s interview process.

D’Antoni Interviewing With Blazers On Monday; Billups, Hammon To Follow

The Trail Blazers are interviewing Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni on Monday for their open head coaching position, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, Portland also has interviews lined up early this week with Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon. All three names were previously identified as candidates to replace Terry Stotts in Portland.

A previous report stated that D’Antoni has “serious interest” in coaching the Blazers, but that it wasn’t clear whether Portland reciprocated that interest. The team appears intrigued enough by D’Antoni to give him an interview, though head of basketball operations Neil Olshey has indicated that the search will be fairly expansive, with upwards of 20-to-25 candidates receiving consideration. As such, we shouldn’t read too much into a single meeting.

Billups has previously been cited as a potential frontrunner for the Blazers’ vacancy. He also received a public endorsement from star point guard Damian Lillard, who is expected to have a say in the team’s hire.

Becky Hammon To Interview For Trail Blazers’ Head Coaching Job

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is among the candidates who will be interviewed for the Trail Blazers‘ head coaching vacancy, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Sources tell Charania that other names on Portland’s list include Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, Spurs vice president of basketball operations Brent Barry and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.

Either Hammon or Staley would make history by becoming the NBA’s first-ever female head coach. Hammon will also interview for the head coaching job with the Magic, Charania adds.

Hammon, 44, has been on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio since 2014. She became the first woman to serve as a head coach in the Summer League in 2015 and was the first female on an All-Star Game coaching staff in 2016.

Staley, 51, is a member of both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She has coached the South Carolina women’s team since 2008 and has been coach of the USA national women’s team since 2017.

A report this week identified Billups and D’Antoni as candidates in Portland, with Billups considered to be the front-runner. He is also rumored to be in contention for the Celtics’ coaching vacancy.

After retiring from the NBA, Barry spent several years as a broadcaster before joining the Spurs in a front-office role in 2018. He has no previous coaching experience.