Gregg Popovich

Restart Notes: Medical Reviews, Announcers, More

The NBA is expected to ask team personnel members to submit their personal medical histories to a panel of physicians in advance of this summer’s resumption in Orlando, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.

As Wojnarowski and Lowe explain, that panel would assess each individual’s level of risk for serious health complications due to the coronavirus. If certain individuals are deemed to be “more vulnerable to severe coronavirus outcomes,” the panel may recommend that they don’t travel to Orlando.

Wojnarowski and Lowe caution that the NBA and its panel likely won’t have the authority to prohibit anyone outright from participating in the resumption of the season in Orlando based on potential health risks. Legal experts tell ESPN that the league also wouldn’t be able to exclude anyone based solely on that person’s age, including head coaches Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Mike D’Antoni (Rockets), and Alvin Gentry (Pelicans), all of whom are at least 65 years old.

Still, as Woj and Lowe write, it’s possible that the NBA’s medical review process could result in a recommendation that the league and an individual’s team strongly encourages them to follow. The NBA also could place certain limitations on those deemed to be at higher risk, a possibility that is causing some “anxiety” among teams, sources tell ESPN.

As we wait to see what measures the league takes in an attempt to keep its players, coaches, and other staffers as safe as possible, let’s round up a few more notes on the NBA’s restart…

  • It sounds like play-to-play announcers and color commentators will call games remotely when play resumes this summer. TNT’s Kevin Harlan said as much during a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview, as Richard Deitsch of The Athletic relays. “What I’ve heard from the folks at TNT is we will be in the studios in Atlanta and they will set up as close to possible a broadcast table like we would have courtside,” Harlan said. “We will have, I’m assuming, crowd noise pumped into our headsets. I think for the viewer, I don’t think it’s going to seem dramatically different.” Harlan added that it’s possible broadcasters could be brought to Orlando late in the postseason.
  • Appearing on ESPN’s First Take (video link), Brian Windhorst describes some of the challenges that players will face living in the Orlando bubble and explores how drug testing will work.
  • Although all eight teams not invited to Orlando this summer agree that they’d like to be able to conduct some form of offseason activities with their players, those teams aren’t necessarily in lockstep about what that should look like, and there are plenty of logistical hurdles to work through, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

And-Ones: Yabusele, British League, Jones, NBCA

Former NBA forward Guerschon Yabusele has signed a one-year contract with LDLC Asvel, according to a press release from the French club (hat tip to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Yabusele appeared in four games for Asvel before the pandemic suspended play after beginning the season in China. Yabusele was drafted in the first round by the Celtics in 2016 and played 74 games over two seasons with Boston.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The British Basketball League has canceled the remainder of its season, according to a statement from the league. “We looked at every option, including playing behind closed doors or restarting the season in the summer, in order that we could get to a league and playoff winners, but with the continued uncertainty, we just ran out of time and options,” BBL Chairman Sir Rodney Walker said. “The clubs were united that now was the right time to bring the current season to a close.”
  • Veteran NBA forward Terrence Jones has signed with Team Washington for TBT 2020, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. The Basketball Tournament is a 5-on-5, winner-take-all event with a grand prize of $2MM. Jones has played with Houston, New Orleans and Milwaukee since being drafted 18th overall back in 2012.
  • A number of prominent coaches have been selected by the National Basketball Coaches Association for a committee on racial injustice and reform to pursue solutions within NBA cities, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale and Stan Van Gundy were among the coaches selected to a committee in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a continuing pattern of violence and intolerance toward African Americans in the U.S.

How Olympic Postponement May Impact NBA, Team USA

Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday that the 2020 Olympics have been postponed until sometime in 2021. As a result, the NBA no longer has to consider the possibility of overlapping with the Games if the league resume its 2019/20 season this summer.

However, the potential dates for the 2020/21 NBA season and the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics remain very much up in the air. As such, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see the ’20/21 campaign end in June and the Olympics begin on July 24, which was the plan for this year before the coronavirus crisis worsened.

Here’s what we know so far about the impact the Olympic postponement might have on the NBA and Team USA specifically:

  • USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Gregg Popovich had only been committed to the program through 2020, but that commitment will now extend to 2021, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirms. “We’re all-in and we’re committed,” Colangelo said. “It’s important to deal with the unknowns and this virus. This too shall pass, and we’ll be back for everyone’s well-being.”
  • Within that Windhorst story, Colangelo says USA Basketball will adjust if NBA players aren’t available for the rescheduled Olympics, but points out that changing the window for the NBA season or the Olympics would be a significant undertaking. “Changing the window for the NBA is easier said than done. There’s a lot of logistics and contracts to deal with,” Colangelo said. “Same for the Olympics. You have to assume it will be around the same dates (in 2021).”
  • As Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN note in a Q&A on the rescheduled Olympics, it’s possible Team USA will no longer be able to send its top players as a result of the postponement. However, it’s also possible that players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – who may not have been ready to go for the 2020 Games – will be healthy and available to participate by the time USA Basketball finalizes its roster in 2021.
  • Joe Ingles, who will represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics, said he’d be disappointed if a schedule conflict prevent him from playing for the Boomers, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays. “I do understand that the NBA and the Utah Jazz pay my salary and it’s really good money and I’m obviously obligated to be here (in the NBA),” Ingles said. “I absolutely love playing for Australia and would do anything to keep playing for Australia, representing my country. We obviously don’t really know what that looks like yet. I hope (the NBA season and the Olympics) don’t clash.”

Southwest Notes: Covington, Bell, Duncan

Rockets GM Daryl Morey said on Tuesday that Robert Covington has been better than the team anticipated when it acquired him at the trade deadline.

“The biggest reason for the trade was to get Covington and he’s actually been even better than we thought,” Morey said (via Salman Ali of Clutch Points on Twitter). “…Not only how good he is, but how much he helps everyone on the team, but in particular Russell Westbrook. The driving lanes for him are super important.”

Morey added that the trade for Covington, which sent out Clint Capela, gave the Rockets more flexibility to make another move in the future.

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jordan Bell, who was waived by the Grizzlies earlier this week, will not be eligible to play in the playoffs should he sign with a playoff team, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks relays (Twitter link). Memphis had to wait until Monday to release Bell to ensure that Anthony Tolliver cleared waivers.
  • Rudy Gay, who re-signed with the Spurs last offseason, has had a disappointing campaign and the veteran forward knows that he can do better. “It’s no secret I haven’t been playing well,” Gay said via Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “You just need a good one to get out of it.”
  • Tim Duncan is serving as the head coach of the Spurs tonight, as Gregg Popovich misses the contest because of personal issues, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets.

Southwest Notes: Bertans, Green, Popovich

Davis Bertans, who was traded to Washington during the offseason, says he still has love for the Spurs, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News relays.

“I am definitely grateful for the opportunity they gave me,” said Bertans. “Coming off two (knee) injuries, a lot of teams might have given up on me after the first one. Just having a chance to go there and learn from one of the best coaches in history, if not the best one (was great). Even though they traded me, I still love them for what they did for me.”

The Spurs initially intended to keep Bertans on their roster. Over the summer, they had the mid-level exception available and had agreed to sign DeMarre Carroll with that tool. Then, Marcus Morris wanted to come to town and the team pivoted to using the MLE on the forward and crafted a sign-and-trade for Carroll that sent Bertans to Washington.

Morris eventually backed out of the agreement, but the deal to send Bertans elsewhere was already in motion.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Jeff Green, who inked a contract with the Rockets, has previously played with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook and he’s happy to team up with them again. “It’s going to be special to see those two guys, the way they’ve grown. It’s been wonderful. As a fan of the game it’s been great to see. I’m excited to be w/ them again,” Green said (via Fox 26 Houston’s Mark Berman on Twitter).
  • The Spurs‘ 22-year playoff streak could come to an end this season and not everyone is surprised about the potential outcome, as Orsborn relays in a separate piece. “It happens to the best of them,” said Robert Horry, who won two titles with San Antonio. “It happened to the Celtics, it happened to the Lakers. People don’t understand how dominant the Spurs have been over the years, but it was bound to come to an end.”
  • There has been plenty of speculation about Gregg Popovich retiring from coaching Team USA after the Olympics this summer, but Jerry Colangelo, who is the managing director of USA Basketball, said he hasn’t had any conversations with Pop about it yet. “It’s really going to be how he feels, [with] age, health [factors],” Colangelo said (via Orsborn in the same piece). “This doesn’t pertain to him, but I would say this about most people, most coaches: If you lose your fire, it’s probably time to step away. But as long as you have that desire and fire in your belly, why not [continue]?”

Coaching Rumors: D’Antoni, Gentry, Boylen, Spurs

The Rockets are off to a reasonably strong start this season, with their 15-7 record good for fourth in the Western Conference. However, Houston’s play hasn’t necessarily made Mike D’Antoni‘s position as head coach any more secure.

According to John Hollinger and Sam Amick of The Athletic, a source with direct knowledge of the Rockets’ situation expressed “serious skepticism” that D’Antoni will still be the head coach in Houston beyond this season. In the view of that source, any result short of a Rockets championship this season probably means the odds are “slim” that D’Antoni returns in 2020/21.

While it seems unlikely that the Rockets would make an in-season coaching change unless things really go south, a few teams around the NBA may look ahead to next spring and consider the possibility of pursuing D’Antoni should he become available, according to Hollinger and Amick.

Here are a few more head coaching notes and rumors from The Athletic’s duo:

  • A number of factors are working in Alvin Gentry‘s favor when it comes to his job security. The Pelicans haven’t been healthy, head of basketball operations David Griffin has a history with Gentry, and team owner Gayle Benson also thinks highly of New Orleans’ head coach. Plus, Gentry is under contract for the 2020/21 season, and his salary for next year is believed to be worth $5MM+, a source tells Hollinger and Amick.
  • League sources tell The Athletic that Bulls head of basketball operations John Paxson continues to be a fan of Jim Boylen and his “tough-love approach.” However, Boylen’s defensive scheme has drawn some criticism and Chicago has the league’s 29th-ranked offense. According to Hollinger and Amick, Boylen also remains unpopular in the Bulls’ locker room. The Athletic duo wonders if an organizational overhaul that affects both Boylen and the front office could be in the cards next year if the team’s struggles continue.
  • League sources continue to speculate that Kansas head coach Bill Self could be a potential successor for Gregg Popovich when the Spurs‘ longtime head coach opts to retire, per Hollinger and Amick. Self has been close friends with San Antonio executive R.C. Buford since they attended college together at Oklahoma State.

Western Notes: Harden, Paul, Popovich, Jokic

James Harden has been logging heavy minutes and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t sure how to reduce his workload, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. Harden had played a league-high 38.9 MPG in the seven games since Eric Gordon suffered a knee injury that required surgery. “You always have concerns,” D’Antoni said. “He’s been shouldering a lot of responsibility, played a lot of minutes. We’ve had guys hurt and Eric can’t spell him. He’s got to shoulder the load of scoring all the time. So, yeah, you worry about it. I don’t have a solution (for) it.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Thunder guard Chris Paul has developed strong relationships with young players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I think Chris is just a huge kid, and that’s what it is,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “So, he likes hanging out with guys like me and Baze, goof around a lot, make fun of each other, and it’s all fun and games.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thinks it will be a while before a NBA team names a woman as its head coach, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “It’s a process and it doesn’t happen quickly. But I think the more women there are [in the game] and as it becomes more commonplace and more the rule, it will then depend on an organization realizing there are women that can do this,” he said. Every woman can’t, every man can’t. But the point is there gotta be enough to choose from and it’s gotta be pretty commonplace before I think somebody’s gonna pull the trigger.”
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has taken some heat on social media for his physique and weight but he shrugs it off, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. “It doesn’t bother me,” Jokic said. The max player’s statistics are down virtually across the board. He’s averaging four points less than last season (16.1 PPG) while shooting a career-low 46.7 percent from the field.

Knicks Notes: Popovich, Morris, Irving, Rotation, Payton

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t just upset at Marcus Morris. He was also ticked off at the Knicks organization concerning Morris’ free agent odyssey, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. Morris backed out of a verbal agreement with San Antonio and inked a one-year, $15MM contract with New York. “Who signed him? I thought it was the Knicks that signed him,” Popovich said. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

However, Popovich has made peace with Morris, as the two embraced after the teams played each other on Wednesday. “That meant a lot. I didn’t know how he felt,” Morris said. “I spoke to him after I made my decision. So it was good to clear the air.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • While the organization may have been disheartened by Kyrie Irving‘s decision to join the Nets, coach David Fizdale wasn’t caught off-guard by the All-Star point guard’s decision, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” Fizdale said. “Guys are going to go where they feel is best for them,” he said. “He felt that that was best for him. I’m happy with the guys that we got.”
  • Fizdale admits he’s still a long way from settling on a rotation, Begley notes in the same story. “I’m sure it’s tough for them (not) being set in a rotation. At the same time, we’re not there yet,” he said. “Some teams have the luxury to know here’s my starting five, here’s my backups. Everybody can just dial into when they’re going to play every single night. But right now we don’t have that luxury.”
  • Elfrid Payton has apparently taken the lead in the starting point guard race after the opener, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Payton posted 11 points, eight assists and five steals with no turnovers as Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina struggled. Rookie RJ Barrett got the start in game one, but that experiment may be over, Berman writes. “By no means is this an indictment on anybody or stuck in stone,” Fizdale said. “I still want these guys to be fighting for that top spot.”

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Rabb, Morris, Robinson

Nobody in the three-way battle for the Knicks‘ starting point guard spot played well enough to earn a start in tonight’s season opener, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina were all on the bench for the beginning of the game in San Antonio as coach David Fizdale opted to use rookie RJ Barrett at the point alongside Allonzo Trier.

“I just like that combination of RJ and Allonzo Trier to be out there,’’ Fizdale told reporters before the game. “The competition is still on and I’m still searching for combinations that are going to fit. Coming into this, I want to see how that looks. I’m going to keep putting it on them to really have to earn it and really force me to play you. None of this is in stone, but at the same time the competition is on.”

Payton, Smith and Ntilikina all struggled in the preseason, especially with shooting, while Trier stood out with an improved jumper. Berman suggests the decision could be seen as a slight against the front office, which signed Payton this summer and picked up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option earlier this week.

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale has previous experience with Ivan Rabb, who was signed today to a two-way contract, Berman notes in a separate story. Fizdale was Rabb’s first coach as a rookie in Memphis, although he was fired after 19 games. “Good kid, hard worker,” he said of Rabb. “Really skilled big. Rebounds the ball well. A high-IQ player. It will be good to get back with him and develop him.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains bitter about Marcus Morris‘ decision to back out of a commitment to San Antonio this summer and sign with the Knicks instead (video link from RJ Marquez of KSAT in San Antonio). Morris verbally agreed to a two-year, $19MM deal with the Spurs before changing his mind when New York was able to offer $15MM for one season. As expected, the San Antonio crowd booed him loudly before tonight’s game.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a look at how Mitchell Robinson was able to overcome a negative college experience and provide some hope for the future in New York.

NBA GMs Pick Clippers To Win Title

The revamped Clippers are the favorites to win the NBA championship in this year’s survey of league general managers, writes John Schuhmann of NBA.com. Forty-six percent of respondents believe the moves that brought in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will result in the first title in the nearly 50-year history of the franchise.

The Bucks ranked second at 36%, followed by the Lakers at 11%. The Warriors and Trail Blazers were the only other teams to collect votes.

Milwaukee was an overwhelming choice to repeat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference at 76%, with the Sixers (24%) getting all the remaining votes.

GMs are predicting the following Eastern Conference playoff order: Bucks, Sixers, Celtics, Nets, Raptors, Pacers, Heat and Magic. Out West, the Clippers were picked as the top team by 66% of GMs, with the Lakers at 14% the only other team in double figures. Still the Nuggets slipped into second in the playoff order, followed by the Lakers, Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Spurs.

Here are a few more highlights from the annual survey:

  • Fifty-two percent believe Giannis Antetokounmpo will win his second straight MVP award. There was a three-way tie for second with Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and Leonard at 10%, followed by Nikola Jokic at 7%. James Harden, LeBron James and Damian Lillard also received votes. Antetokounmpo was picked by 86% of GMs as the player they would like to build a franchise around, while De’Aaron Fox was tabbed as the most likely to have a breakout season.
  • The choices for best player at each position were all fairly decisive, with Curry (90%) at point guard, Harden (86%) at shooting guard, Leonard (62%) at small forward, Antetokounmpo (59%) at power forward and Jokic (48%) at center.
  • Eighty-two percent said the Clippers made the best offseason moves, followed by the Pelicans at 11%. The Nets and Jazz both got votes. Leonard (67%) was named the player acquisition most likely to have the biggest impact, while Utah’s trade for Mike Conley was the most underrated move (36%).
  • Zion Williamson was a clear choice for Rookie of the Year and the rookie who will be the best player in five years, with both numbers at 68%. Ja Morant received 29% support in the ROY poll, while Darius Garland was at 4%.
  • Leonard was picked as both the best overall defender (45%) and the best perimeter defender (59%) in the league. Rudy Gobert was selected as best interior defender (93%), while Draymond Green was named the most versatile (38%).
  • Gregg Popovich was a runaway winner as best coach at 55%, followed by Erik Spoelstra (17%), Mike Budenholzer (10%) and Steve Kerr (7%).
  • The Nuggets were chosen as the most fun to watch by 31% of GMs and the team with the best home-court advantage by 38%.