Becky Hammon

Spurs Notes: Hammon, Popovich, Walker, Offseason

Having been hired as the head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces back in December, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon finished the regular season with San Antonio, but left the team this week, head coach Gregg Popovich confirmed before Wednesday’s play-in game vs. the Pelicans.

“She had to go,” Popovich said, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “They had the draft on Monday and camp is going to start. She has to get ready. That’s not a good thing for us.”

When the Spurs’ season came to an end with a loss in New Orleans on Wednesday, the focus shifted to Popovich’s own future. He hasn’t offered any hints about how much longer he’ll coach the Spurs and told reporters it was “inappropriate” to ask about his plans immediately after the club’s season ended on Wednesday.

According to veteran reporter Marc Stein (Twitter link), some people in Spurs circles believe the 73-year-old will coach the team for at least one more season, but they all acknowledge that only Popovich knows for sure.

In a column for The Express-News, Mike Finger writes that when Popovich does decide to call it a career, he’ll probably only make a brief announcement and retire immediately rather than embarking on a year-long farewell tour. But, like everyone else, Finger isn’t sure if that will happen this spring, or a year or two down the road.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Asked after Wednesday’s game about his upcoming restricted free agency, Lonnie Walker said he’s “hopeful to be back,” but indicated he’ll leave those conversations up to his representatives (Twitter link via Matthew Tynan). Walker is San Antonio’s only major free agent this summer — their other four FAs are either coming off two-way contracts (D.J. Stewart Jr., Robert Woodard II) or spent most of the season on two-way deals (Joe Wieskamp, Devontae Cacok).
  • Although the Spurs have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, this will likely be the first year since 1997 that they’ll have a top-10 pick, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Their first-rounder will almost certainly land at No. 9 or 10 if it doesn’t move into the top four. The Spurs can’t expect to do as well as they did in ’97 (when they drafted Tim Duncan), but that pick should give them a chance to land a cornerstone player, and they’ll also control two other 2022 first-rounders, from Toronto and Boston.
  • In his preview of the team’s offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) identifies rebounding as one of the Spurs’ biggest needs and explores their cap situation. Outside of Walker’s free agency, San Antonio also faces an important decision on Keldon Johnson, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension.

Central Notes: LeVert, Marsh, Bey, Pistons

Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert returned to action on Monday after a nine-game absence, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. LeVert sprained his right foot last month. LeVert averaged 13.3 PPG and 3.8 APG in his first four games since he was traded from Indiana to Cleveland.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers assistant Tyler Marsh will be joining Becky Hammon‘s staff with the Las Vegas Aces, the WNBA team tweets. Marsh will remain in Indiana until the end of the season, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. Another Pacers assistant, Jenny Boucek, turned down a chance to join Hammon’s staff late last month.
  • Saddiq Bey is one of five players who have appeared in every game this season. The second-year Pistons forward has earned great respect from his coach for his toughness, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “I love him,” Dwane Casey said. “He’s an iron man. He plays with bumps and bruises. He plays with hangnails. Some guys are out with a hangnail, but Saddiq is there every night.”
  • The Pistons have been much more competitive since the All-Star break but they still need another top three pick to facilitate their rebuild, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. The risk factor increases drastically outside of the top three in this year’s draft class, according to Edwards’ sources, and it’s possible for Detroit to wind up picking as low as sixth or seventh if the team doesn’t finish with the worst record. The Pistons currently have one more win than Houston and the same amount as Orlando.

COVID-19 Updates: Grant, McConnell, Doumbouya, More

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said forward Jerami Grant has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols and is currently reconditioning, according to Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).

In 21 games this season (33.2 MPG), Grant is averaging 20.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG. He was cleared for on-court work earlier this month in his recovery from thumb surgery, but then was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols.

At least 10 teams are reportedly interested in dealing for Grant, who’s one of the hottest names on the trade market.

Here are some more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Pacers guard T.J. McConnell has exited the health and safety protocols and is back with the team, but he’s still unable to play as he rehabs from hand surgery, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles tweets. McConnell might miss the rest of the season with the injury.
  • Lakers two-way forward Sekou Doumbouya has cleared the protocols and is back with the team’s G League affiliate in South Bay, per the NBA’s injury report.
  • According to the same report, Raptors two-way rookie David Johnson has exited the protocols and is back with the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate. Johnson was the 47th overall pick of the 2021 draft out of Louisville, but has appeared in just two games for the Raptors for a total of two minutes.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan informed reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) that assistant coaches Maurice Cheeks and John Bryant both tested positive for COVID-19 and have entered the health and safety protocols.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said that assistant coach Chip Engelland has entered the protocols, but assistants Becky Hammon and Darius Songaila have exited. “It’s like a merry-go-round,” Popovich said, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News relays (via Twitter). Mike Finger of the Express-News tweets that all of the Spurs’ front-bench assistants and a dozen players have been placed in the protocols this season.

Spurs’ Becky Hammon Named Head Coach Of WNBA’s Aces

5:15pm: The Las Vegas Aces officially announced Hammon as their next head coach in a press release. “I am so excited to return to the WNBA and grateful for Mark Davis and Nikki Fargas having a vision for me to lead the Aces,” said Hammon. “This is where I come from, and I wouldn’t be me without the W. I’m thrilled to be able to give back and lead this next group of women.”

Becky has become an integral part of our program in every way, shape and form,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “This is a great opportunity for her to highlight her many skills. Her intuitive feel for the game and ability to teach will serve the Aces very well as she institutes her system and culture.”

I have so many incredible memories and proud moments in San Antonio from my time with both the Stars and the Spurs,” added Hammon. “From the fans and players to coaches and staff, everyone in the organization has treated me so well for so many years and the entire experience has been amazing.

“I’m especially thankful to Pop, who only cared about my potential, not my gender. He saw something special in me and was willing to invest the time and energy to help teach and develop a young coach.”

Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV (Twitter link) reported earlier today that Hammon would also get the title of general manager in Las Vegas. That wasn’t mentioned in the Aces’ press release.


8:41am: Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is nearing a “landmark” deal with the Las Vegas Aces that will make her the WNBA’s highest-paid coach, sources tell Shams Charania and Chantel Jennings of The Athletic. Hammon, who was also pursued by the New York Liberty, will replace Bill Laimbeer in Vegas.

According to an ESPN report, Hammon will receive a five-year deal from the Aces. She plans to finish the 2021/22 season with the Spurs before officially transitioning to her new job.

A six-time All-Star as a WNBA player from 1999-2014, Hammon joined the Spurs following her retirement as a player, becoming the first woman to be hired as a full-time NBA assistant coach.

Hammon has since interviewed for a handful of head coaching openings, including the Trail Blazers’ job this past offseason, and has long been considered the best bet to become the NBA’s first female head coach — perhaps even as Gregg Popovich‘s successor in San Antonio. However, her new deal with the Aces will take her out of the mix for NBA positions in the short term.

Spurs Notes: Bates-Diop, Murray, Hammon, G League

Keita Bates-Diop was an unlikely candidate to become the first Spurs player with a 30-point game this season, but the little-used forward reached that number in Thursday’s win over the Lakers, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Bates-Diop had 88 total points in his first 23 games, but he exploded in L.A., hitting all 11 of his shots from the field in the best night of his career.

“That’s why he’s in the NBA,” teammate Lonnie Walker said. “You’ve got to put respect on almost any player that’s out there. We’re all here for a reason.”

Bates-Diop was named Big Ten Player of the Year at Ohio State in 2018, but he has found only limited success in the NBA. Taken by the Timberwolves with the 48th pick in that year’s draft, he spent a season and a half in Minnesota before being traded to Denver. He signed a two-way contract with the Spurs last season and earned a standard deal this year.

“He’s a conscientious guy,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s becoming more and more conscientious all the time — and also a bit more confident, like he feels like he has a place.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • It took a lot of years and a lot of help for Dejounte Murray to develop into a top-level point guard, McDonald notes in a separate story. Drafted in 2016, Murray got to learn from Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard early in his career, but also had to overcome a torn ACL that wiped out his entire third season. “He had very little experience coming into the league and basically missed one whole season where he wasn’t able to develop,” Popovich said. “So at this point to see him playing the way he is, the confidence arena, where he’s got habits that are formed now — he understands the position. He understands the role and responsibility every night.”
  • Two WNBA teams have expressed interest in hiring Spurs assistant Becky Hammon as their head coach, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces have both reached out and there is mutual interest, according to Charania. Hammon has been rumored for years as a potential replacement for Popovich whenever he retires.
  • With the G League delaying the start of its regular season, Joshua Primo, Joe Wieskamp and Devontae Cacok may join the Spurs for Sunday’s game against Detroit, Orsborn tweets.

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.