Gregg Popovich

New York Notes: Harden, Irving, Burks, Quickley, Claxton, Sharpe, Mills, Aldridge

The Nets’ two healthy stars had a “breakthrough” performance on Friday, James Harden told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and other media members. Harden and Kyrie Irving combined for 26 fourth-quarter points against San Antonio. Harden finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

“For sure, it was a breakthrough,” Harden said. “(Kyrie)’s capable of doing that at any moment and any point in the game. That’s one of the reasons why we need him every single game, because he’s able to do that, especially with everything that’s going on with our team. But he’s able and more than capable of doing things like that whenever he wants. I think he just tries to get us involved a little bit more, but he’s a special talent.”

Of course, Irving can only play half the time due his unvaccinated status. Kevin Durant is sidelined by a knee injury and there’s no timetable for his return.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • There are all kinds of issues with the Knicks these days, including the lack of production from guards Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. Burks signed a three-year, $30MM contract during the offseason and Quickley is on his rookie deal. They’ve tanked during the current three-game losing streak, shooting 22-for-77 (30.6%) from the field.
  • The Nets are reportedly looking for a way to deal Paul Millsap, who hasn’t been able to crack the rotation. That’s due to the increase in minutes for young players Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. That has made it difficult for coach Steve Nash to fit in the numerous frontcourt veterans dotting the roster. “Just a difficult situation that we didn’t necessarily foresee, but here we are,” Nash said. “And Day’Ron and Nic have emerged.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich offered high praise for two of his former players, the Nets’ Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News relays (Twitter links). Of Mills, Popovich said, “he’s always positive, a consummate pro in preparing for his job, gives everything he has in every practice and every game, supports everybody on the team and in the organization.” Regarding Aldridge, Popovich said, “LA did all the community things Patty did….He just did it quietly. … He was a great teammate with everybody, a heck of a player.”

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Spurs, Simmons, Turner, Mavericks

Even though the Pelicans have started the season with a disappointing 8-20 record, head coach Willie Green has noticed plenty of improvement since opening night, Christian Clark of Nola.com writes.

New Orleans is 5-5 in its last 10 games, which includes a 109-93 home victory over Detroit on Friday. The team has been playing without star forward Zion Williamson due to his foot rehab.

“One of the things that I look at is our assists,” Green said. “How much we’re moving the ball. How much we’re sharing the ball. In our wins, we do a good job of just moving the ball … Some of our losses, we get a little stagnant. But in some of our losses, it comes down to making shots. I do see a lot of improvement, which is the key.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division today:

Spurs Notes: White, Young, Three-Point Shooting, COVID Testing

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said this week that guard Derrick White, in the first year of his new four-year, $68MM contract, is showing significant improvements thanks to his newfound confidence after injuries and the coronavirus derailed his 2020/21 season, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. White, 27, dealt with a toe surgery, an ankle sprain, and a COVID-related absence last year.

“With those injuries, it really wrecked his confidence,” Popovich said of the fifth-year guard. “He had to sit around for a long time. When he came back, he just had no rhythm and wasn’t really confident.”

The 6’4″ White, selected with the No. 29 pick out of Colorado in 2017, is averaging 12.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 3.4 RPG in 19 games this season.

There’s more out of San Antonio:

  • New Spurs forward Thaddeus Young spoke with Alex Kennedy of Basketball News on Kennedy’s podcast about his surprise at being traded from the Bulls to the Spurs, as well as several other topics. “Definitely caught me off guard for the simple fact [that]… my agent had just talked to everyone in Chicago, and we were being told that I was coming back,” Young said. “The only thing I had wished was that I had [gotten] the heads-up before [finding out on] social [media].” When asked about how long he hoped to continue playing in the NBA, the 15-year vet remained open-minded. “For me, it’s just a matter of just getting minutes,” Young said. “So far this season I haven’t really played as much as I’ve played in the past, but with the time I have been given I’ve been productive.”
  • San Antonio continues hoping to improve its three-point shooting, several years removed from the tenure of ex-Spur and three-point specialist Davis Bertans, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. McDonald notes that the Spurs are last in the NBA in triples for the second consecutive season thus far. Having made 9.9 three-pointers per game last season, the Spurs are currently converting even fewer threes than that in 2021/22, at 9.7 a night. “You have to keep up with threes or you are in trouble,” Popovich said. “In today’s game, that’s the deal.”
  • The Spurs have been receptive to the league’s more frequent COVID-19 testing around the Thanksgiving holiday, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “I don’t want to get my kids sick,” said Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes. “I don’t want to get my family sick. I would never want to risk any of their lives or any of their health for anything. I think it’s important we test.” Spurs big man Drew Eubanks echoed these concerns. “I don’t go out too often … trying to wait until things die down a little bit to go shopping and stuff,” Eubanks said of exercising caution due to the ongoing pandemic. “I just got my (COVID) booster (shot) the other day and am just trying to stay up to date on what to do and what the new developments are.”

Spurs Notes: Johnson, Popovich, Murray, Poeltl, Eubanks, Young

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson has signed with Klutch Sports for representation, the agency announced earlier this week (via Twitter). Johnson is still on his rookie contract, but will become extension-eligible for the first time during the 2022 offseason.

As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes, Johnson was previously represented by Fundamental Sports Management, an agency based in San Antonio. Johnson said he has “nothing but good words to say” about FSM, but decided that a change in representation was the best business move for his career.

“It was long and thought-out, but at the end of the day, I am up and coming, and I just wanted the best representation,” Johnson said.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • The Spurs’ 4-11 record is tied for the third-worst mark in the NBA, but head coach Gregg Popovich is still having a good time working with his young roster, Orsborn writes for the Express-News. “They are growing, doing little things better all the time,” Popovich said after Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers. “Frustrating to lose, but when a team is working that hard and willing to learn, it’s enjoyable as hell, even in a loss. I’m proud of the way they are competing. Now we just have to make fewer mistakes and have a couple of guys play better.”
  • Dejounte Murray, who is in the second season of a four-year contract with San Antonio, has been a bright spot for the team so far, as Orsborn says in another Express-News story. “We haven’t exactly amazed the world, but if we didn’t have him we would be in big trouble,” Popovich said on Thursday. “He’s looking for other teammates to join him in playing as well as he is.” Murray struggled in the Spurs’ Thursday loss to Minnesota, but still has impressive season-long averages of 18.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.8 APG, and 2.0 SPG.
  • After missing seven games due to a symptomatic case of COVID-19, Jakob Poeltl returned to action on Thursday. However, he’s facing a minutes restriction and was limited to a season-low 15 minutes in his return. “I honestly felt pretty good conditioning-wise,” he said after the game, per Orsborn. “But I feel like I still need to get my rhythm again. It’s kind of weird playing these short, limited minutes. It’s tough to get into the game.”
  • In yet another story for the Express-News, Orsborn takes a closer look at the bond that has developed between young center Drew Eubanks and veteran forward Thaddeus Young, who has served as a mentor to Eubanks. “We have a great relationship,” Eubanks said. “He’s always in my ear.”

Spurs Reportedly Preparing For Popovich To Retire Within Next Two Years

The Spurs are preparing for longtime head coach Gregg Popovich to retire within the next year or two, league sources tell Jordan Schultz of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Schultz, the organization is beginning an “extensive” search to identify Popovich’s successor. That search will cover both external and internal candidates.

In the years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, there had been speculation that the event would be Popovich’s swan song. However, even after leading Team USA to gold in Japan following a one-year delay, he’s returning to the sidelines in San Antonio for the 2021/22 season.

Two recent reports have suggested this could be Popovich’s last season as the Spurs’ head coach, but both Zach Lowe of ESPN and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report warned not to rule out the possibility of the 72-year-old sticking around for another year beyond that. Based on Schultz’s report, it sounds like two more years would be the longest Popovich would continue coaching.

Lowe’s story last month stated that former Spurs assistant Will Hardy and former San Antonio star Manu Ginobili are the two candidates most frequently mentioned in league circles as candidates to succeed Popovich, despite the fact that it’s unclear whether Ginobili has legitimate interest in coaching. Current Spurs assistants – including Becky Hammon – are also believed to be candidates, along with former Popovich assistants such as Brett Brown and Jacque Vaughn, per Fischer.

Unlike most teams that decide to part ways with a coach at the end of a season – or during a season – the Spurs will be able to take their time with their search, with no need to finalize a decision in a matter of weeks or even months. And unlike most coaches who part ways with NBA organizations, Popovich seems likely to have some input on who his replacement will be.

Popovich is the oldest head coach in NBA history and one of only two coaches in league history that has held the job in his 70s.

He has been the Spurs’ head coach since December of 1996, making him the NBA’s longest-tenured head coach by more than a decade. Erik Spoelstra of the Heat, who took the reins in April 2008, is the league’s second-longest tenured coach. No other coaches have held their current job further back than 2014.

Spurs Notes: Popovich, Offseason, Primo, Wieskamp

A report earlier this month indicated that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has seemed revitalized by the influx of young talent in San Antonio, and his comments to reporters this week back up that report. Although this year’s version of the Spurs won’t be a title contender like some of Popovich’s past teams, he said he’s “thrilled with this group,” according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press.

“They are basically young, energetic, have got a lot of speed,” Popovich said. “There is no need to pace yourself. Nobody is going to play 39 minutes a game, don’t have to worry about stats or individual honors or anything like that. These guys are just going to have a ball playing.”

The days of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are long gone, but even in recent years, Popovich was able to rely on veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay. This season, the Spurs are short on go-to vets, but the veteran coach sounds perfectly fine with that.

“I have no idea who I’m going to give it to or what play we’re going to run,” Popovich said, per Dominguez. “That’s something we’re going to figure out as we move along, and to me, that’s exciting as hell.”

Here’s more from out of San Antonio:

  • The Spurs’ offseason moves – including signing Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes in free agency – suggest they plan to shoot more three-pointers this season, says John Hollinger of The Athletic. San Antonio ranked dead last in the NBA last season in three-point makes (9.9) and attempts (28.4) per game.
  • Rookie guard Joshua Primo was “ecstatic” to land with the Spurs on draft night, according to agent Todd Ramasar, who tells Madalyn Mendoza of The San Antonio Express-News that his client had long admired the franchise. “When you think about them being the gold standard in the NBA from an organization standpoint, I think all that ties in to just how unreal it was to hear his name called at 12,” Ramasar said.
  • Although the Spurs essentially admitted defeat on one of their 2019 first-round picks this week when they cut Luka Samanic, the team’s hit rate in the draft remains high, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News. As Finger observes, of San Antonio’s seven first-rounders since 2016, five (Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell) should be, at the very least, solid NBA contributors, while a sixth (Primo) is off to a promising start this fall.
  • Second-round pick Joe Wieskamp is prepared to spend a good chunk of his rookie season in the G League with the Austin Spurs and plans to make the most of it, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I just view this as a developing year. It’s all about learning, all about growing,” Wieskamp said. “Just to have that experience of playing in Austin will be great. You get more opportunities to truly be yourself and work on things in a game environment.”

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Porzingis, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets

Asked by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith during an appearance on First Take about rumors that there has been some friction between Mavericks teammates Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, head coach Jason Kidd dismissed the idea that there are any issues between the team’s two leading scorers (video link).

“I think we all heard in the NBA circle that there was tension between the two, but I would have to say that’s fake news,” Kidd told Smith. “… There were some other issues that I thought they did a great job of keeping in-house that had nothing to do with those two.

“I’m excited, I think the relationship between the two of them is at a high level. They’re basketball players who want to compete and who want to win. For a coach, I have to put them in that position to be successful. But I think their relationship is great.”

Smith didn’t press Kidd on what those “other issues” in Dallas were that didn’t involve Doncic or Porzingis, but it’s possible the Mavs’ new head coach is referring to some of the conflicts that were outlined in a report from The Athletic back in June. Presumably, given the way the front office and coaching staff were overhauled this summer, the franchise believes those issues are in the rear-view now.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

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: USA Basketball, Mayo, Mejri

Grant Hill has taken over as USA Basketball’s managing director and one of his first tasks is to find a replacement for coach Gregg Popovich. Hill told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that he plans to hire a new coach before the NBA season begins on October 19.

Candidates that have previous experience with USA Basketball will have the upper hand, according to Spears. That group would include Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, Jay Wright, Doc Rivers, Nate McMillan, Monty Williams, Tom Thibodeau, Erik Spoelstra and Jeff Van Gundy.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo has reached an agreement with Russia’s Unics Kazan, Sportando relays. Sport-Business.ru was first to report the news. Mayo was banned by the NBA in 2016 for violating the league’s drug program. Mayo has recently played in China.
  • Former Mavericks big man Salah Mejri has reached an agreement with Al Jahra in Kuwait, according to Sportando. Mejri appeared in 204 games with Dallas from 2015-19.
  • In case you missed it, Jarrell Brantley is expected to sign with a Russian team after being waived by the Jazz. Get the details here.

Western Notes: Popovich, Landale, Can, Beckett

Gregg Popovich may not seem the type of coach who is interested in records, but he wants to become the NBA’s all-time winningest coach more than many people would suspect, according to Marc Stein of Substack (subscription required). The Spurs’ longtime coach is 26 wins shy of passing Don Nelson for the most regular-season coaching victories. The fact that they are close friends adds to the appeal. Prior to becoming a head coach, Popovich spent two seasons in Golden State as Nelson’s top assistant.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  •  Jock Landale’s two-year contract with the Spurs is a minimum-salary deal, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets. The first year is fully guaranteed, while the second year is non-guaranteed. The Australian big man was the NBL Grand Final MVP last season.
  • The Jazz have added Erdem Can to their coaching staff, according to a team press release. Can joins Quin Snyder‘s staff after serving as an assistant coach for Fenerbahce in the Turkish first division from 2012-21.  He has also assisted the Jazz’s summer league coaching staff five times in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
  • Assistant coach John Beckett is signing a new contract with the Nuggets, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Beckett was under consideration to join Wes Unseld Jr.‘s staff with the Wizards. Beckett and Unseld worked together under Michael Malone last season.