Becky Hammon

Spurs Assistant Ettore Messina Joins Olimpia Milano

11:09am: Olimpia Milano has made it official, announcing today in a press release that Messina has signed a three-year contract to serve as the club’s president of basketball operations and head coach.

8:01am: Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina has agreed to a deal with Italian club Olimpia Milano, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). According to Charania, Messina will run the team’s basketball operations and will become its new head coach.

Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reported on Monday that Messina had interviewed for that dual role with Olimpia Milano, the only Italian club in the EuroLeague, and was expected to make a decision on his future this week. Prior to Charania’s report, Carchia had indicated that Messina was leaning toward accepting Milano’s offer.

While the details of Messina’s new agreement aren’t known, Carchia classifies it is a multiyear deal and suggests that Olimpia Milano made the veteran coach a “rich” offer to lure him away from San Antonio. Messina will replace Milano head coach Simone Pianigiani on the sidelines, and is expected to name a new general manager soon, per Carchia.

A longtime head coach overseas for CKSA Moscow, Real Madrid, and other clubs, Messina joined the Spurs in 2014 as Gregg Popovich‘s lead assistant. He has received interest from multiple NBA teams as a head coaching candidate since then, interviewing with the Hornets, Bucks, and Raptors in 2018, and the Cavaliers in 2019. He also coached Italy’s national team from 2015-17.

With Messina’s imminent departure, the Spurs will have some holes to fill on Popovich’s coaching staff for the 2019/20 season. After James Borrego left for the Hornets last spring, Messina and Ime Udoka are departing this year — Udoka recently accepted a job as the Sixers’ lead assistant.

Assistants Will Hardy and Becky Hammon are in position to take on more prominent roles in San Antonio.

Cavaliers Notes: Messina, Udoka, Fernandez

The Cavaliers‘ meeting with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina is taking place today, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).

As we detailed last week, Messina will become the second assistant on San Antonio’s staff to interview for Cleveland’s head coaching job this spring, joining Ime Udoka. Udoke “came across as very sharp” during his interview on Sunday, Fedor writes in a Cleveland.com mailbag.

As Fedor explains in that same mailbag, the Cavaliers appear unlikely to interview Becky Hammon, a third assistant from the Spurs’ staff. In Fedor’s view, that’s because Messina and Udoka are lead assistants in San Antonio and are more ready to take the next step to a head coaching role. It’s the same reason Fedor believes Cleveland is unlikely to hire Jordi Fernandez, who is further down in the pecking order on the Nuggets’ staff than most of the other candidates the Cavs are interviewing.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • While Fernandez may not end up being the Cavaliers’ choice for head coach, it would make for a good story if he is. Joe Vardon of The Athletic explains why, with an in-depth look at Fernandez’s coaching journey and his deep ties to Ohio.
  • Within his mailbag, Fedor observes that the Cavaliers will have limited resources available to add pieces to their roster this offseason. However, if they’re able to acquire outside help, the Cavs need to prioritize shooting and/or rim protection, according to Fedor.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic examines the Cavaliers’ roster situation and potential draft needs, outlining why he thinks the team should draft R.J. Barrett over Ja Morant if given the opportunity.

Cavs Notes: Smith, Coaching Search, Expiring Deals, Draft

Cavaliers GM Koby Altman told reporters Friday that he has already been contacted by a team interested in trading for J.R. Smith, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The interest isn’t so much in Smith as a player – he parted ways with the team in November and only appeared in 11 games this season – but in his contract, which is valued at $14.72MM but carries only a $3.87MM guarantee.

[RELATED: Why J.R. Smith May (Or May Not) Be A Valuable Offseason Trade Chip]

A team looking to unload salary could deal for Smith and be on the hook for just $1.29MM annually if he is waived and stretched over three seasons. The Cavaliers showed a willingness this year to take on unwanted contracts in exchange for draft picks, trading for Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, Matthew Dellavedova and Nik Stauskas.

“We are actually the only team in the NBA that can provide guaranteed cap relief from teams or salary relief until July 1,” Altman said. “We can guarantee that right now and we actually had a phone call yesterday on that (Smith) trade chip, so, we’re going to keep on being aggressive adding those assets because we do eventually want to consolidate and be really good at some point.”

There’s more from Cleveland, all courtesy of Vardon:

  • Altman promised an “open-minded” approach to the team’s coaching search and brought up the possibility of making history by hiring a woman for the job. Though he couldn’t mention her by name because she’s under contract, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is an obvious candidate if Altman wants a female coach. Hammon interviewed for the Bucks’ head-coaching job last year, ran the Spurs’ summer league team and has a player development background, which Vardon states is important to the Cavaliers.
  • Other coaching possibilities that Cavs players mentioned to Vardon include the Nets’ Bret Brielmaier, the Mavericks’ Jamahl Mosley and the Trail Blazers’ Nate Tibbetts. All three have previous experience in Cleveland. Altman said interviews will begin soon with candidates whose teams aren’t in the playoffs.
  • The Cavaliers believe their expiring contracts for next season might generate some interest on the trade market this summer. Knight and Dellavedova will both be free agents in 2020, along with John Henson, Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson.
  • Cleveland won a tiebreaker with the Suns for second place in the draft order heading into next month’s lottery. If they Cavs do wind up with the No. 2 pick, Vardon notes, their view of what type of player Collin Sexton will develop into may determine whether they opt for a point guard in Ja Morant or a wing player in R.J. Barrett.

Western Rumors: Warriors, Hammon, Suns, Clippers

With no cap room available this summer, the mid-level exception represents the Warriors‘ best chance of signing a free agent who can become a part of the club’s rotation. However, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic details, it’s not a lock that Golden State will use its full taxpayer MLE, which figures to be worth approximately $5.3MM in 2018/19.

“It depends,” general manager Bob Myers said earlier this week when asked about the possibility of using that mid-level exception. “[Warriors owner] Joe [Lacob] has always shown a high level of aggressiveness. So if it makes sense for us and if it helps us win, he’s always said yes. But that’ll be the markers that have to be met.”

Because the Warriors project to be well over the luxury-tax threshold next season, a player signed using the MLE figures to cost exponentially more than $5.3MM due to the tax penalties. So if the Dubs do use the exception, they’ll want to do it on a player who they feel is worth a $15-20MM investment. Avery Bradley, Tyreke Evans, Trevor Ariza, Will Barton, and J.J. Redick are some potential targets mentioned by Slater, though those players figure to receive larger offers on the open market.

Here are a few more items from around the Western Conference:

  • The Spurs have promoted Becky Hammon to a role on the front of the team’s bench, the club announced on Wednesday in a press release. According to the club, Hammon will be taking over the role previously held by James Borrego, who was hired as the Hornets’ new head coach this spring.
  • The Suns will be on the lookout for point guard in free agency, but John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 doesn’t think Rajon Rondo or Marcus Smart are likely to end up in Phoenix, and essentially rules out the possibility of the team pursuing Milos Teodosic (Twitter links).
  • The Clippers have worked out several free agents who had been playing overseas, a source tells international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link). In addition to Chris Babb, whose workout was previously reported, the club also took a look at Quincy Miller, Victor Rudd, and others, according to Pick.
  • In a piece for The Oklahoman, Erik Horne takes a look at several potential luxury-tax scenarios for the Thunder, depending on whether players like Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Jerami Grant stay or go.

Becky Hammon On Pistons’ Radar

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is on the Pistons’ radar as they seek out a new head coach to replace Stan Van Gundy, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News.

The Pistons are currently searching for both a head coach and a new head of basketball operations, with a focus on filling the front office position first. As such, the timeline on Detroit’s head coaching search remains up in the air, so it’s not clear if – or when – Hammon might get an interview.

If the Pistons do elect to meet with Hammon, it won’t be her first head coaching interview this spring. She also had a meeting with the Bucks last week before Milwaukee completed its search by hiring Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer.

A member of the Spurs’ staff for the last four seasons, Hammon had a lengthy career as a player, spending several seasons with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars and earning six WNBA All-Star nods. She also played for a handful of international teams in Spain and Russia.

Hammon, who recently received a strong endorsement from Spurs big man Pau Gasol, is one of several San Antonio assistants who have received head coaching interest this spring. James Borrego was hired by the Hornets, Ettore Messina was said to be a finalist for the Milwaukee job, and Ime Udoka interviewed with the Magic and Hornets.

Southwest Notes: Hammon, Nowitzki, Doncic, Pelicans, Gentile

Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon will become the first woman to interview for an NBA head coaching job next week when she meets with the Bucks. While the former WNBA star only has four years as an assistant coach to her credit, many feel she has gained traction to be a serious head coaching candidate, Ansar Khan of MLive.com writes.

It remains unlikely that Hammon is hired as a head coach this summer, but interviewing for vacancies now means more interviews in the future. Also, while hiring Hammon would set a historic precedent, several NBA teams have already gone in unconventional routes to hire head coaches. Ansar points out that Brad Stevens was hired by the Celtics as a 36-year-old with just college coaching experience; David Blatt was hired by the Cavaliers with no experience in the United States; the Suns just hired Igor Kokoskov, the first European to fill an NBA head coaching post.

The 41-year-old Hammon has garnered support across the league. This week, European legend Pau Gasol, who has played with the Spurs under Hammon the past several seasons, penned a letter for The Players’ Tribune in support of Hammon. It remains to be seen if Hammon lands a job this summer but the progress she has already made only increases the likelihood in the future.

Check out more Southwest Division notes:

  • Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki — who will play in his 20th NBA season in 2018/19 — is out of his walking boot and rehabbing the foot injury that cost him the last four games of this season. In an exclusive interview with Dwain Price of Mavs.com, Nowitzki discussed his recovery and future. While it’s possible next season is Nowitzki’s last, he did not commit to retirement. “I think I guess at this age you kind of take it one year at a time,” Nowitzki said. “It sounds cliché, but that’s how it is — see how I come through (next year). I came through pretty good this year. I could have probably almost played 82 (games) if I wanted to.”
  • The Mavericks will find out their draft slot next week, which will make their plans for the June draft clear. Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News writes that Dallas must find a replacement for Dirk Nowitzki in this draft as the German big man’s career slowly winds down.
  • If the Mavericks somehow land the first or second overall pick in the NBA Draft, the fanbase should familiarize itself with Slovenian standout Luka Doncic, who is expected to be one of the first picks this summer, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes.
  • After a successful regular season and a competitive run through the postseason, the Pelicans enter the offseason with optimism in abundance. Scott Kushner of The Advocate looks ahead to New Orleans’ offseason and big decisions that will need to be made.
  • Alessandro Gentile, a 2014 draft pick whose rights belong to the Rockets, will be at the NBA Summer League with Houston, per La Gazzetta Dello Sport (via Sportando). Gentile suited up for the Italian club Virtus Bologna this season, averaging 16.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 3.4 APG in 24 games.

Coaching Rumors: Raptors, Casey, Bucks, Knicks

As we relayed in our story on Dwane Casey‘s firing earlier today, it didn’t take long for one outside candidate to be linked to the Raptors‘ head coaching job, with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski both reporting that Mike Budenholzer is a name to watch.

Budenholzer’s name continues to surface in relation to the Raptors’ newly-opened coaching position. Sources confirmed to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) that Toronto is expected to pursue Budenholzer, while Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) hears from coaching sources that Raptors president Masai Ujiri has “strong interest” in the former Hawks head coach.

As we wait to see if Budenholzer emerges as the favorite for the Raptors’ job, let’s round up more coaching rumors and notes from around the NBA…

  • According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link), Casey – who had one year left on his contract – sought an extension from the Raptors before he was let go. Zillgitt speculates that stance may have forced Ujiri’s hand.
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide updates on the Bucks‘ coaching search, writing that the first round of interviews should wrap up this week. Milwaukee has interviewed Ettore Messina, Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and Joe Prunty so far, and still has meetings lined up with David Blatt and Becky Hammon. GM Jon Horst figures to narrow the team’s list to three or four finalists, at which point team ownership will get involved in the process.
  • A source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Jerry Stackhouse “interviews well” for coaching jobs, but “does rub some people the wrong way.” Stackhouse entered the offseason as a popular rising head coaching candidate, but has yet to gain traction for any open jobs. In fact, despite a mid-April report indicating Stackhouse would meet with the Magic, that interview has yet to happen, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.
  • New Knicks head coach David Fizdale is expected to hire Nick Van Exel to join his staff in New York, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Like Keith Smart, who is also reportedly set to join the Knicks, Van Exel was on Fizdale’s staff in Memphis.

Bucks Line Up Coaching Interviews For This Week

The Bucks have a busy week of head coaching interviews ahead of them, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the team will meet with Steve Clifford today after sitting down with Ettore Messina on Saturday.

In addition to today’s meeting with Clifford, the Bucks also have interviews lined up this week with Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Becky Hammon, James Borrego, and David Blatt, per Wojnarowski. All of those interviewees had been previously named as potential candidates for the Milwaukee job, with Budenholzer and Williams viewed as possible favorites.

Assuming all those interviews take place this week as planned, the Bucks’ list of completed meetings would be up to at least seven. A recent report indicated that interim coach Joe Prunty would also get to interview for the permanent job, though it’s not clear if that meeting has already taken place or if he’ll sit down with Bucks management later in the process.

Wojnarowski said last week that the Bucks may interview up to about 10 candidates for their head coaching position, so it’s possible that one or two other contenders could join the fray. Jim Cleamons reportedly spoke informally to the club about the job, making him one candidate for a more formal interview.

Bucks To Interview Becky Hammon, James Borrego

The Bucks intend to interview Spurs assistant Becky Hammon for their head coaching position, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski notes, Hammon became the NBA’s first female assistant coach in 2014, and will now be the first woman to ever interview for an NBA head coaching job.

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

A member of the Spurs’ staff for the last four seasons, Hammon had a lengthy career as a player, spending several seasons with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars and earning six WNBA All-Star nods. She also played for a handful of international teams in Spain and Russia.

As Wojnarowski details in his report, this is the second time the Bucks have met with Hammon, as the two sides also spoke about the club’s general manager opening a year ago. According to Woj, Hammon isn’t necessarily viewed as a frontline candidate for Milwaukee’s head coaching opening, but GM Jon Horst and team ownership are intrigued enough to ask the Spurs for permission to speak to her.

Hammon will be the fourth Spurs assistant to interview for a head coaching job this offseason. Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka, and James Borrego have also received consideration from one or more teams. We heard earlier today that Messina is among the candidates scheduled to talk to the Bucks, and Wojnarowski adds Borrego to that list as well, tweeting that he’ll interview with the club next week.

In total, the Bucks reportedly plan to interview four members of the Spurs for their head coaching job: Hammon, Messina, Borrego, and vice president of basketball operations Monty Williams.

Wojnarowski notes that Mike Budenholzer, previously identified as a candidate for Milwaukee, will meet with the Bucks too. Meanwhile, Horst confirmed that interim coach Joe Prunty has “earned the right” to be a part of the process, and will be among those interviewed (Associated Press report via NBA.com).

Central Notes: Bulls, Bullock, Bogdanovic

The Bulls will use the last few games of the regular season much as they’ve used the rest of it, auditioning players for long-term roles. As Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes, there’s a relatively short list of players who will certainly be back in the picture for the team next season.

While Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen headline the Bulls’ young core, veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday have proven their worth as leaders in the locker room.

Cowley writes that Bobby Portis, David Nwaba and Denzel Valentine have all shown that they can be valuable bench pieces as the team heads forward, leaving five spots to be filled by the likes of incoming 2018 rookies and perhaps current Bulls players who have shown glimpses of promise in 2017/18.

There’s more out of the Central Division tonight:

  • Now that the Pistons have been eliminated from playoff contention, they’ve shut guard Reggie Bullock down for the remainder of the campaign. Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes about the veteran’s career year.
  • Make no mistake, LeBron James would have no qualms playing for a female head coach. “I mean, if she knows what she’s doing, we’ll love it,” James told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin when asked about Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon. “I mean, listen, at the end of the day, basketball … it’s not about male or female. You know the game, you know the game.
  • Offseason addition Bojan Bogdanovic has thrived for the Pacers this season and is filling the role he expected when he signed with the club over the summer. “I was not looking for the money. I was looking for the opportunity that I was going to be a starter and play a decent amount of minutes,” Bogdanovic, who averages a career high 30.8 minutes per game for the Pacers, told J. Michael Falgoust of The Indianapolis Post. “Talking to the coaching staff during the summer in free agency they told me exactly it was going to be this way I didn’t have any doubts signing with the Pacers.