Gregg Popovich

Spurs Notes: Murray, Rebuild, Popovich, Collins, Brown

The Spurs were motivated to trade Dejounte Murray because the agent for the All-Star guard informed the team that he wouldn’t agree to a contract extension, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link, hat tip to Bleacher Report). Murray wasn’t unhappy with his current contract, which runs for two more seasons, Windhorst adds, but recognized he’d have to reach free agency to get a significant raise.

“And that wasn’t really necessarily about the Spurs,” Windhorst said. “His contract is about $16 million on average. When you extend your contract, you’re limited into how much of a raise you can get. And it would’ve been probably below his market value as a 25-year-old All-Star. But he pretty much told them — he’s like, ‘I’m probably not going to extend next summer either.'”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The three picks and a future draft swap that the Spurs received from Atlanta in return for Murray will pave the way for a full-scale rebuild that the organization was reluctant to do after losing Kawhi Leonard, observes John Hollinger of The Athletic. San Antonio will likely bottom out this season in advance of a strong draft that features French center Victor Wembanyama at the top. Hollinger also notes that the team will have plenty of cap room, both to take on unwanted contracts this season and to potentially offer two max deals next summer.
  • The Murray trade isn’t a sign that head coach Gregg Popovich won’t return next season, according to Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News, who says Popovich approved the deal. With the playoffs seemingly out of reach, Popovich can focus on teaching and player development.
  • The Spurs had internal discussions about taking back John Collins from the Hawks, but they decided the draft equity was more valuable for the future of the franchise, Finger tweets.
  • Former Sixers head coach Brett Brown is expected to rejoin Popovich’s staff as an assistant, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link). Brown was an assistant in San Antonio from 2007-13 before becoming the head coach in Philadelphia.

Spurs Notes: Branham, Wesley, Walker, Sochan, Popovich

Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley impressed the Spurs so much with their competitiveness at a pre-draft workout that the team decided to take both players, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The two guards were matched up against each other in a 3-on-3 scrimmage and both took advantage of the opportunity.

“I felt like we was competing for a spot, so I was going extra hard and going after him,” Wesley said of Branham. Wesley also tried to outshine Duke’s Wendell Moore, who took part in the scrimmage as well, explaining, “They had a lot more hype than me, so I wanted to go at them.”

General manager Brian Wright said the Spurs expected Branham to be selected in the mid-teens or possibly late in the lottery and were prepared to trade up for him before he fell to No. 20.

“He’s smart, tough, competitive and coachable, and those are all things we were looking to find in this draft,” Wright said.

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The addition of two guards casts doubt on the future of Lonnie Walker, who is headed for free agency, Orsborn adds in a separate story. The Spurs can make him restricted by extending a $6.3MM qualifying offer by Wednesday, but there may no longer be a role for him in San Antonio. “He has done a phenomenal job in his development over the years and we saw the consistency he brought, especially in the second half of the season when he really hit his stride,” Wright said. “At the appropriate time, we will sit with (his representatives) and him and try to find out what’s next for him and the franchise.”
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News looks at the international background of lottery pick Jeremy Sochan, who had to learn basketball from his mother because there weren’t many accomplished coaches in the English town where the family lived when he was young. The organization is impressed by Sochan’s versatility and plans to use him all along the front line.
  • Coach Gregg Popovich called each of the Spurs’ draft picks Thursday night to welcome them to the team, McDonald tweets, adding that it’s a pretty clear indication that Popovich plans to return for another season.

Western Notes: Wiggins, Warriors, Popovich, Jazz

Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised Andrew Wiggins for his improved play this season — which has now carried into the postseason, as Kerith Burke of NBC Sports Bay Area relays (Twitter link).

Wiggins was named an All-Star for the first time this season, averaging 17.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on 47% shooting from the floor and 39% shooting from deep. His strong two-way play is a major reason why the Warriors have hung around in the NBA Finals, defeating Boston on Friday to tie the series 2-2.

“He’s a very mild-mannered guy, but he’s taken a leap in these playoffs in terms of his impact on the game defensively,” Kerr said, also noting how Wiggins grabbed 16 rebounds in Game 4. “The biggest thing is he’s a two-way player.”

Here are some other notes from the West:

  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press explores how the Warriors proved they’re still dominant on the road by winning Game 4. Nicknamed the “Road Warriors,” the Dubs have won a road game in each of their last 27 playoff series. Golden State won 107-97 in Boston on Friday behind Stephen Curry‘s 43 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Until Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says otherwise, it’s best to assume he’ll return next season, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Popovich has held off on discussing his future and seems focused on the present. Should he return next season, it would be his 29th as San Antonio’s head coach.
  • Sarah Todd of the Deseret News examines the Jazz‘s front-office hierarchy, which can be confusing because of some relatively recent changes in the basketball operations department. Utah hired ex-Celtics general manager Danny Ainge as CEO last year, but still has Justin Zanik as general manager. As Todd notes, the team also didn’t hire a new executive vice president of basketball operations when Dennis Lindsey left the position.

Celtics Notes: Horford, Udoka, Pop, Road Wins

It took a little convincing, but 36-year-old Celtics big man Al Horford eventually realized he would need to add three-point shooting to his arsenal for a lengthier NBA career, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Haynes writes that former Hawks general manager Rick Sund first suggested the move. Atlanta drafted Horford with the third pick out of Florida in 2007.

As Haynes writes, Horford took just 65 three-point attempts through his first eight NBA seasons. During his 2015/16 season with the Hawks, Horford averaged 3.1 looks per night, converting 34.4% of those. He has never taken fewer than 3.0 three-point attempts in a season since then. His highest conversion rate was 42.9% on 3.1 tries during the 2017/18 season with Boston.

“Rick is the one that told me, ‘Man, you have a really good mid-range. You should start shooting corner threes, that’s going to help extend your career,’” Horford said. “I used to be a banger down low and posting up. He was like, ‘Man, you’re not going to last in this league if you keep playing like that.’ … Rick was right. I think I have gained extra years by adding the 3-point shot.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is employing a championship strategy employed by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, for whom he was an assistant coach during consecutive NBA Finals trips, writes Tim Keown of ESPN. Keown notes that Udoka’s calm, tough comportment could stem from lessons learned in San Antonio, where he was also a player. “He coached with the greatest ever to do it in Pop,” Marcus Smart said. “He’s a sponge. Every place he went, he soaked it all in, put it into his game and brought it over here to us.” Prior to his current head coaching stint with the Celtics, Udoka also served under Brett Brown with the Sixers and Steve Nash with the Nets.
  • After starting his career with a 10-day contract on a Lakers team led by Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Ime Udoka eventually carved out an NBA niche as a role player. Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines that Udoka’s time spent as a career role player helped prepare him for the nuances of coaching. After his four-game tenure with the 2003/04 Lakers, Udoka suited up for the Knicks, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Kings during a seven-year NBA career.
  • One reason behind the Celtics’ 2022 postseason success has been their ability to win on the road, writes Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. Boston won two away games in each of its three Eastern Conference playoff series, and already has earned a victory at the Chase Center in the NBA Finals. A second straight road victory is certainly on the minds of Boston players. “We’ve got to have that right mindset that this is a big game for us, and we’ve got to go out there and compete and not try to hang our hat on Game 1 but to be a little greedy and go get Game 2,” reserve point guard Derrick White said of the team’s mentality.

Fischer’s Latest: Jazz, Conley, Snyder, Popovich, Graham

Speculation about the potential breakup of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert appears to be fueled more by people outside of the Jazz organization than those within it, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says sources from the team and around the NBA believe that CAA has been responsible for many of the whispers involving Mitchell’s future.

According to Fischer, team owner Ryan Smith is willing to spend big on a contender, and Utah has no plans to rebuild. Smith also likes the idea of having multiple players in the 2023 All-Star Game, which the Jazz will host.

Although some rival executives believe a Gobert trade is a possibility and view the Mavericks, Hawks, and Raptors as potential destinations, Fischer says the Jazz are focused on upgrading their defense, so moving a three-time Defensive Player of the Year seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, complementary players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and perhaps even Mike Conley are considered more realistic trade candidates.

Fischer wonders if the Clippers or the Knicks might have interest in Conley, another CAA client. With the Jazz seeking help on the wing, Evan Fournier could theoretically headline a Knicks offer for Conley if they miss out on Jalen Brunson, says Fischer, though he notes that some staffers in New York would prefer to stay in-house and give Immanuel Quickley an expanded role.

As for the Clippers, Fischer is skeptical that a Conley trade offer centered around sharpshooter Luke Kennard would appeal to a Utah team looking to improve its defense and suggests that a more realistic point guard target for L.A. would be John Wall, assuming he and the Rockets work out a buyout. Wall has also been linked to the Heat, but Fischer’s sources believe Miami’s interest predated last year’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • There’s “little expectation” among people close to the situation that Quin Snyder will leave the Jazz before his contract expires in 2023, says Fischer. Snyder also holds an option for the 2023/24 season.
  • Jazz CEO Danny Ainge doesn’t appear inclined to shake up the team’s basketball operations department. According to Fischer, major changes would likely only occur if former head of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey gets a top front office job elsewhere and wants to bring some Utah executives with him.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is traveling and considering his coaching future, plans to visit Belgrade for the EuroLeague Final Four later this month, a source tells Fischer. The general sense is that Popovich seems interested in coaching San Antonio for at least one more season, Fischer adds.
  • The Pelicans are among the teams believed to be considering a possible point guard upgrade this offseason, reports Fischer. Devonte’ Graham saw his role reduced significantly in the playoffs and some people around the league think he could end up on the trade block this offseason, but sources tell Fischer the Pels aren’t motivated to move on from Graham like they were with Eric Bledsoe a year ago.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Nance, Wall, Spurs

The Pelicans are aware that evening their current first-round playoff matchup against the top-seeded Suns will require them to keep their cool, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

In the middle of Game 3’s second quarter, Pelicans big man Jaxson Hayes was ejected from the contest, an eventual Suns win, after aggressively pushing Phoenix forward Jae Crowder. New Orleans would go on to lose at home by a narrow margin (114-111). The Suns now have a 2-1 series edge.

Pelicans head coach Willie Green acknowledged that Hayes let his emotions get the best of him in that instance, but that the team overall has been effective at managing its emotions in a playoff environment.

“I thought we’ve done a really good job of that this series,” Green said of the Pelicans’ approach to their emotions. “We had a moment — the Jaxson-Jae Crowder thing. But other than that, it was a close game coming down the stretch, the last five minutes. They pulled away a bit. But we’re doing a lot of good. We just have to be better down the stretch.”

New Orleans will face off against the Suns in a big Game 4 today.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. is confident in the team’s core even without star forward Zion Williamson, writes Logan Murdock of The Ringer“We’re the real deal,” Nance tells Murdock. “This team is here and this team is for real… And we have a top-10 asset that hasn’t even touched the court yet.” Murdock notes that three promising New Orleans rookies have emerged as key additions to the club’s playoff rotation: Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado, and Trey Murphy III. Star veterans CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram have proven they belong in these playoffs thus far.
  • Rockets veteran point guard John Wall is expected to opt in to the final season on his max deal, worth $47.3MM in 2022/23. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggests that Wall’s agents and Houston brass will discuss the possibility of a buyout arrangement if the Rockets are unable to find a trade partner for Wall before the 2022 draft in June. Should Wall be bought out, the Heat and Clippers may have interest in adding the former All-Star, says Fischer.
  • With the team’s youth movement fully underway, the Spurs are ready for an offseason typical of San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich: one full of Popovich’s exacting standards, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Third-year forward Keldon Johnson knows what to expect from Popovich, who wants to see Johnson improve his defense. “He’s hard on me because he wants me to be great,” Johnson said. “If it was anything different, I wouldn’t want that.” McDonald writes that San Antonio All-Star guard Dejounte Murray will need Johnson, forward Devin Vassell, and rookie shooting guard Joshua Primo to develop for the Spurs to return to the playoffs.

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.

Stein’s Latest: Snyder, Popovich, Pistons, M. Robinson, More

There’s no indication that Quin Snyder, the NBA’s fourth longest-tenured head coach, is in any danger of losing his job with the Jazz. However, in his latest Substack article, Marc Stein says he has heard Snyder’s name come up more and more frequently as a potential Gregg Popovich successor with the Spurs.

Before he was hired by the Jazz, and before he served as an assistant for the Hawks, Lakers, and 76ers, Snyder jump-started his NBA coaching career by serving as the head coach of the G League’s Austin Toros – San Antonio’s then-affiliate – from 2007-10. According to Stein, the Spurs would “naturally relish” the opportunity to bring him back to the organization once Popovich retires.

Still, the Spurs’ decision on a successor for Popovich could be a ways off yet. Stein says, if pressed, he’d lean toward Popovich sticking with the Spurs for at least one more season rather than calling it a career later this year.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Stein is the latest reporter to state that the Pistons are believed to have strong interest in Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Several other outlets, including SNY.tv, The New York Daily News, and HoopsHype, have previously reported Detroit’s interest in Robinson.
  • According to Stein, there have been “rumbles in league coaching circles” that if the Knicks want to move on from head coach Tom Thibodeau this spring, president of basketball operations Leon Rose would have to be willing to be the team’s voice “out in front” of that decision. As Stein points out, Rose has operated almost exclusively behind the scenes since taking control of the Knicks’ front office, rarely speaking to reporters, which perhaps bodes well for Thibodeau’s job security.
  • Within his Substack article, Stein also explores the tough decisions facing U.S. players who had been playing for teams in Russia prior to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of those players have left in recent weeks, but some are being offered six-figure bonuses to return, according to Stein, who says there’s a belief in industry circles that several may soon go back to Russia, despite the criticism they’d face.

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Murray, Popovich, Green

CJ McCollum is thriving with the Pelicans since being acquired from Portland. McCollum says added responsibility has led to his strong start in New Orleans, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He is averaging 26.6 PPG on 51.9% shooting and 6.0 APG since the deal. “I’m the primary ball-handler now,” McCollum said. “Before, Dame (Damian Lillard) was the primary ball-handler.” McCollum is in the first year of a three-year, $100MM extension.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray was fined $20K by the NBA on Wednesday, the league announced (via Twitter). Murray threw the game ball off the legs of a referee during the fourth quarter of the team’s 118-105 loss to the Grizzlies on Monday. He was ejected for the incident.
  • The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is just two victories away from becoming the winningest coach in league history. Popovich, 73, is still as demanding as ever, Murray told The Athletic’s David Aldridge. “It’s all stuff that makes sense,” he said. “That’s the big picture about it. Everything he’s yelling about, or talking about, it all makes sense.”
  • All the extra work Jalen Green has put in over the course of his rookie season is paying off, as Kelly Iko of The Athletic details. The Rockets guard and No. 2 pick in last year’s draft averaged 16.5 PPG and shot 39% from the 3-point line last month. “I would just say a lot more efficient, a lot more aggressive,” Green said of his improvement. “I’m locked in and hopefully will give my team a chance to win and just take my game to another level.”

Spurs Notes: Popovich, K. Johnson, Primo, Walker

Although it didn’t happen Saturday night, it’s only a matter of time until Gregg Popovich catches Don Nelson for the most career coaching victories, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The Spurs‘ overtime win Friday at Washington was the 1,334th of Popovich’s career, leaving him one behind Nelson, who was one of his coaching mentors.

“Suffice to say, being in this position is awkward, surreal, unexpected, never planned and all of the above,” Popovich said.

The Spurs lost Saturday at Miami, extending Popovich’s wait to reach the record. The team will travel to Memphis on Monday, and with upcoming games against the Kings and Hornets he could be alone at the top by the end of the week.

Among the most impressive things about Popovich’s achievement is that all his wins are with one organization. He took over as San Antonio’s coach early in the 1996/97 season and has remained in that position ever since.

“It just shows you his longevity and excellence for decades,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It really is remarkable.”

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • Keldon Johnson is averaging 20.3 points per game in February, but he understands that he has a long way to go to be a complete player, per Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News. Johnson, who’s in his third NBA season, said he welcomes constructive criticism, whether it’s from his acerbic coach or Draymond Green, who served as a mentor during Johnson’s Olympics experience last summer.
  • The Spurs are ready to give more responsibility to first-round pick Joshua Primo, Finger adds in a separate story. The youngest player taken in the 2021 draft, Primo divided his time before the All-Star break between the NBA and the G League, but Popovich said he’ll remain with the Spurs for the rest of the season. “He’s going to be a player for us for a long time,” Popovich said. “He shows an uncanny maturity on the court for such a young kid. He’s just getting used to the physicality. He’s playing with men.”
  • Trading Derrick White to the Celtics left a hole in the Spurs’ backcourt, but Lonnie Walker sees an opportunity for himself and the team’s other young guards (video link from KENS5). “Derrick was a huge piece for us offensively and defensively,” Walker said. “Losing him was probably one of the hardest things for our team, but it allows us young guys like Devin (Vassell), myself and Primo to continue to grow and get better and play our game.”