Gregg Popovich

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.

Kemba Walker Commits To World Cup; Anthony Davis Considered Probable

A pair of players who have other important things going on this summer will likely be part of Team USA’s entry in the FIBA World Cup, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Hornets guard Kemba Walker has already committed to play in the tournament in China, while Pelicans big man Anthony Davis has offered “strong indications” that he would like to be involved.

Walker will be part of a stellar class when free agency begins at the end of the month, while Davis hasn’t budged on his desire to be traded and will probably be involved a blockbuster deal at some point during the offseason.

Team USA officials would also like to add James Harden to the roster (Twitter link). Zion Williamson, expected to be the first selection in this year’s draft, will be contacted as well (Twitter link).

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will guide the team in the tournament, which will run from August 31 to September 15. That leaves a small gap until NBA training camps, which open September 27 for teams making overseas trips and September 30 for everyone else (Twitter link).

Spurs, Popovich Expected To Complete Three-Year Deal

Once head coach Gregg Popovich officially commits to returning to the Spurs‘ bench for next season, he and the team are expected to finalize a three-year contract that will ensure he remains the NBA’s highest-paid coach, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Despite some speculation that Popovich may elect to retire after the 2018/19 season, all recent signs have pointed toward him continuing his coaching career. A report over the weekend suggested as much, and Popovich himself dropped plenty of hints that he’d return during his end-of-season session with reporters on Monday.

According to Wojnarowski, Popovich’s new deal won’t change the fact that he’ll continue to evaluate his future on a year-to-year basis. Spurs ownership feels that the sport’s longest-tenured coach is entitled to manage his future however he wants, sources tell Woj.

In addition to remaining on the sidelines for the Spurs, Popovich will be the head coach for Team USA at the 2019 World Cup in China and at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. As Wojnarowski notes, the idea of Popovich retiring after next year’s Olympics has also been a popular theory, but there’s no indication at this point that the 70-year-old is leaning in that direction.

Although Popovich’s Spurs couldn’t get by the Nuggets in the first round of this year’s playoffs, it was another impressive season for the veteran head coach, who led San Antonio to the postseason for the 22nd straight year.

Popovich Strongly Hints He’ll Remain Spurs’ Coach

Gregg Popovich plans to remains the Spurs coach for a 24th season and is currently in negotiations with the front office to finalize the deal, he hinted on Monday to the media, including the San Antonio Express News’ Tom Orsborn“It’s one third Portofino, one third Positano, and one third San Antonio,” wine connoisseur Popovich quipped about contract talks.

Popovich’s contract expired at the end of the season. He is the longest-tenured coach in any of the four major professional sports leagues. The Spurs were eliminated by Denver on Saturday in the only opening-round playoff series that required seven games to determine a victor.

The Spurs finished the regular season with 48 victories despite a major roster overhaul during the offseason, including the blockbuster deal that sent starters Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto. San Antonio’s starting point guard Dejounte Murray suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to the regular-season opener.

With DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge along with promising young pieces, the 70-year-old Popovich indicated he’s eager to work again with the current mix.

“It’s just the beginning of a new culture for a new group,” he said. “So we will have a little bit of corporate knowledge going into next season, and they’ll show that, I think.”

Popovich will also have a busy summer coaching Team USA in the FIBA World Cup in China in August and September.

Popovich Expected To Continue Coaching Spurs

Gregg Popovich is expected to return to the Spurs next season, with one member of the team’s staff telling Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express News that he has “no doubt” about the legendary coach’s future. Popovich’s current contract expired when San Antonio’s playoff run ended last night. He will coach Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, but has remained guarded about his plans beyond that.

“I’m a head coach in the NBA,” Popovich said in response to a pre-game question Saturday on whether he was considering retirement. “I don’t think about what that means in the future.”

At age 70, Popovich still embraces the challenges of coaching and had a particularly good time this season, notes Jabari Young of The Athletic. In looking for clues about his future, Young cites a quote from Popovich before a March game in Boston.

“This is actually one of the more enjoyable seasons,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch Bryn Forbes develop, and Davis Bertans, and Derrick White and so forth. It’s satisfying.”

The chance to reach a milestone may also play into Popovich’s thought process. He moved into third place on the career victories list this season with 1,245 and is just 90 away from catching Don Nelson for the top spot.

There’s more on the offseason decisions facing the Spurs:

  • Rudy Gay will be the team’s only significant free agent this summer, but San Antonio has to decide how much it wants to invest in a player who will be 33 by the start of training camp. The Spurs will have Early Bird rights on Gay, Young notes, meaning they can offer up to a 75% raise on his $10MM contract. Gay will be eligible for a one- to four-year deal starting at about $17MM per season.
  • Regardless of what happens with Gay, San Antonio will likely be operating above the salary cap but under the tax line, Young adds. That will give the team a $9.2MM mid-level exception to use on the free agent market.
  • It’s not too early to start thinking about DeMar DeRozan‘s free agency, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. DeRozan can decide next summer to opt out of his $27.7 million salary for 2020/21, and could join Draymond Green and possibly Anthony Davis as the top names in an otherwise sub-par free agent class. The Spurs can eliminate that possibility by reworking DeRozan’s contract when he becomes eligible for a four-year, $149.1MM extension on July 6.
  • The Spurs also face a difficult decision on Dejounte Murray, who will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension through October 21, according to Marks. Murray appears to have a bright future, but he is coming off a torn ACL that wiped virtually his entire season. Jakob Poeltl is also eligible for a rookie scale extension, but by waiting on both players and DeRozan, the Spurs could have up to $30MM in cap room to spend next summer.
  • Patty Mills will be eligible for a veteran extension on August 4, and LaMarcus Aldridge becomes eligible on October 1, Marks adds.

Gregg Popovich Unsure If He’ll Coach Spurs Beyond 2018/19

Longtime Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich remains undecided about his future beyond the 2018/19 season, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. Popovich is in the final season of his current contract, and while the team would be happy to extend him for as long as he wants, he’s unsure whether he’ll continue his coaching career next season.

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his coaching future.

According to Stein, Popovich – the NBA’s longest-tenured head coach by 12 years – said that he and general manager R.C. Buford have “periodically” discussed the Spurs’ options beyond this season. Buford notes that Popovich will remain on San Antonio’s bench for “as long as he wants to coach.”

NBA observers have speculated that Popovich would coach the Spurs for one more season after 2018/19, then retire after working with Team USA in the 2020 Olympics. However, while Popovich remains on track to coach the U.S. basketball squad in Tokyo in the summer of 2020, there’s no guarantee he’ll still coach the Spurs leading up to that event.

As Stein observes, Popovich will also coach Team USA during this year’s World Cup, which takes place in September, just two weeks before NBA training camps get underway. With international competitions bookending the ’19/20 season, Popovich may prefer to focus on those Team USA responsibilities.

Stein also points out that Popovich will turn 70 years old later this month. Only three other head coaches in NBA history have worked into their 70s, per Stein — Bill Bertka (71), Hubie Brown (71) and Larry Brown (70).

Popovich currently has the third-most wins of any coach in league history, with 1,223, and also ranks fifth in all-time winning percentage (.686) among coaches who have been on the sidelines for at least 100 games.

Raptors/Spurs Notes: Kawhi, DeRozan, Popovich

The Raptors and Spurs are set to face one another on Thursday night for the first time since consummating their blockbuster offseason trade nearly six months ago. Predictably, discussion this week has centered on Kawhi Leonard‘s return to San Antonio and DeMar DeRozan‘s first game against the team with whom he thought he’d spend the rest of his career.

In his latest deep dive for ESPN.com, however, Tim Bontemps focuses less on last summer’s trade and more on the Raptors’ plan to keep Leonard beyond this season. Within his piece, Bontemps shares a series of interesting details on Nick Nurse‘s first meeting with Kawhi, the Raptors’ strategy for managing their superstar’s health, and the franchise’s belief that it has built the sort of culture in Toronto that will help convince Leonard to re-sign.

“When we came aboard six years ago, we wanted to bring this organization to a level where you can make this pitch,” Toronto GM Bobby Webster said. “So you have strength in excellence around the organization — the basketball side, the coaching staff, the medical and support staff, obviously ownership — to where when we have a superstar player, an MVP-candidate-type player, now we can go to him and say, ‘We are really confident in who we are, we’re really proud of what we’ve built, and these are all the reasons why we think you should stay.'”

According to Bontemps, the “popular opinion among league executives” for now is that Leonard’s decision could come down to the Raptors vs. the Clippers. While the Raps are doing their best to sell Kawhi on the city and the franchise, the Clippers can offer two things Toronto can’t — an opportunity to return home to Los Angeles and year-round warm weather. It remains to be seen how important those factors will be and what other factors Leonard will seriously weigh, and he’s not offering any hints.

“I’m not thinking about that,” Leonard told Bontemps when asked about his upcoming free agency. “I’m focused on right now, what this is bringing for me and focused on the opportunity that I have here and what we can do this season. Later down the road, that’s when I’ll make my decision.”

Here’s more on the Raptors and Spurs, with a focus on the two stars involved in July’s blockbuster:

  • Speaking to reporters, including Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich downplayed the importance of Thursday’s reunion, calling it a “waste of our time” to rehash the details of Leonard’s exit from San Antonio. “You move on in life,” he said. “We’re not going to redo what’s happened in the past in any way, shape or form. It’s of no consequence at this point, and it does no good to go backward and talk about this, that or the other.”
  • For what it’s worth, within his story on Leonard (detailed above), Bontemps reports that Popovich, who said in November that Leonard “wasn’t a leader,” has regretted making those comments — and the way that they were perceived.
  • Jabari Young of The Athletic takes a look at Thursday’s reunion from both sides, citing one source close to Leonard who says the All-Star forward doesn’t hold any hard feeling toward the Spurs. Meanwhile, a source close to DeRozan offered the following assessment of DeMar’s impressions of the Spurs’ organization: “He has never experienced the amount of professionalism from a day-to-day basis from a coach, GM, or organization that he has in his short term in San Antonio.”
  • DeRozan spoke a little more this week about unexpectedly being traded by the Raptors, telling reporters – including Eric Koreen of The Athletic – that he had wanted to remain with the team and “break every single record” in Toronto. “Sometimes you don’t get in life the opportunity to marry the woman you felt was the woman of your dreams,” DeRozan said. “So, it just happens that way.”

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Popovich, Forbes

The Grizzlies have been one of the surprise teams to start the season, as they sit firmly in the Western Conference playoff picture at 13-8. As the season continues to unfold, it looks more and more clear that the Grizzlies hit on nearly all of their offseason moves as they’ve built a team that thrives on playing tough, physical defense at a slow pace.

Mark Giannotto of The Commercial Appeal is now asking another question related to the Grizzlies’ season, focusing on how the team can improve its roster during the year to capitalize on this fast start. While the Grizzlies do have some expiring contracts on the roster in the form of Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, those two are key cogs in the team’s rotation, especially defensively.

The Grizzlies could use another go-to perimeter player to help Mike Conley, but it may be tough to find an ideal trade that doesn’t see the Grizzlies sacrifice too much on the defensive end. Regardless, Memphis may become an active buyer at the trade deadline should their strong play continue.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • In a recent mailbag for The Daily Memphian, Chris Herrington addresses potential trade targets for the Grizzlies as they look to address their needs on the perimeter.
  • The Spurs are certainly struggling, as they sit at 10-12 and in 14th place in the Western Conference. As Chelsea Howard points out for The Sporting News, Gregg Popovich is putting a lot of blame on himself as he expects more from his coaching performance moving forward.
  • One bright spot for the Spurs has been the play of Bryn Forbes, who looks to be developing into one of the league’s best shooters, as Bryan Kalbrosky writes for HoopsHype. Forbes has received a much larger role due to the various injuries in the backcourt and is averaging 16.1 points and 3 three-pointers per 36 minutes.

Western Notes: Popovich, Rose, Jazz, Harrison

Gregg Popovich was asked Saturday about the importance of Patty Mills‘ leadership following the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili, with the longtime Spurs coach delivering a straightforward answer on the matter.

“Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn’t a leader or anything,” Popovich said, according to ESPN’s Michael C. Wright. “Manu and Patty were the leaders. Kawhi’s talent will always be missed, but that leadership wasn’t his deal at that time. That may come as he progresses, but Manu and Patty filled that role last year, and LaMarcus [Aldridge] came a long way in that regard also.”

The Spurs traded Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick this summer, ending a seven-year run for Leonard with the team. Leonard grew as a player and teammate in San Antonio, receiving two All-Star selections and a Finals MVP.

Popovich called him a “great teammate” this past offseason and appreciated his contributions, but it’s no secret who the leaders on the team were during their time together.

There’s more out of the Western Conference today:

  • Derrick Rose is happy with the Timberwolves‘ play since Jimmy Butler was traded, as relayed by the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think the ball movement, everyone being on the same page, and the new pieces that we have, like they’re for the team,” Rose said. “They’re professional, great dudes, and that’s what we needed.’’ Minnesota traded Butler and Justin Patton for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick in early November.
  • Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News examines what’s wrong with the Jazz, who have started the 2018/19 season with an 8-11 record. Utah was one of the NBA’s most surprising teams last season, finishing the campaign with a 48-34 record.
  • Shaquille Harrison holds no hard feelings toward the Suns after being cut by the team before the season, Gina Mizell of The Athletic writes. “I’ve always taken that with me,” Harrison said. “You just never know what’s gonna happen, how things are gonna shake out. I just looked at it as an opportunity for me. It ended up working out for me. I looked at things as everything happens for a reason, so it was purposeful.” Harrison, now with the Bulls, played 18 minutes against Phoenix on Wednesday.

Spurs Notes: DeRozan, Murray, Aldridge, Ginobili

Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan says he’s more motivated than he’s ever been in his career, as he told NBA.com in a TV interview. DeRozan was highly agitated when the Raptors traded him away to the Spurs and while he claims he’s over the disappointment, he feels he has something to prove while moving to the Western Conference. “I treated my whole summer workout with that motivation, that chip on my shoulder. It’s making me more anxious to get out there and play,” he said.

In other news around the Spurs:

  • Coach Gregg Popovich said during the team’s annual media day on Monday that Dejounte Murray is up for the challenge of becoming the team’s next standout point guard, Madalyn Mendoza of the San Antonio Express News writes. “He really wants to be good, he really wants to be to the team what Tony (Parker) was to the team,” Popovich said. “I’m confident he’ll do that as time goes on.” Murray’s ability to push the ball will force the tempo and challenge his teammates, Popovich adds. “Other players will have to run like they’ve never run before because he’s going to go,” Popovich said. “And if they want to ball they’ll have to run with him.”
  • LaMarcus Aldridge is glad the Kawhi Leonard saga is over and doesn’t want to rehash it, Michael Bolin of 247Sports relays. “It’s obviously gone now. If you are gonna ask questions about that whole thing, I’m not going to answer it,” the veteran power forward said. “We are happy to turn the page.”
  • Popovich took recently retired guard Manu Ginobili on his annual coaches’ retreat last week, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright tweets. Ginobili revealed earlier this month that Popovich tried to talk him into playing for another season.