Gregg Popovich

And-Ones: Title Threats, Ennis, Storylines, Top Coaches

Which team is the Nuggets’ biggest impediment to a second straight title? ESPN’s panel of experts believes the Bucks, Warriors, Suns and Celtics are all potential threats to a Denver repeat. As for just making the playoffs, the Mavericks, Bulls, Timberwolves and Pelicans are among a group of teams that can’t afford to fall short of postseason participation or else risk major rebuilds or superstar demands for trades.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Tyler Ennis has signed with Italy’s Gevi Napoli Basket, according to a team press release. A first-round pick in 2014, Ennis has not played in the NBA since the 2017/18 season, when he appeared in 54 Lakers games. In recent years, Ennis has played mainly in Turkey. He also had a stint with the Raptors’ G League team.
  • The trade demands of James Harden and Damian Lillard, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future with the Bucks, are some of the storylines that will be closely followed this NBA season, The Athletic’s Sam Amick writes.
  • Who are the top five coaches in the NBA? Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times tackles that subject, ranking the Heat‘s Erik Spoelstra and the Spurs Gregg Popovich first and second. The third choice may surprise some people. Cowley rates the Knicks Tom Thibodeau at that spot due to his ability to take downtrodden franchises and make them playoff teams.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Harden, Spurs, Popovich, Sengun

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving showed his support for former Nets teammate James Harden after Harden called Sixers executive Daryl Morey a liar, The Dallas Morning News relays.

When ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski labeled Harden “disgruntled” in a social media post, Irving stood by Harden on his official Twitter (X) page.

“Is he Disgruntled Adrian?? Or is he holding Morey accountable for his dishonesty and lack of transparency throughout the contract negotiation process this summer?” Irving wrote.

Harden reportedly was unhappy with Irving prior to be traded to Philadelphia, but Irving’s post suggests the two star guards may be on better terms now.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Victor Wembanyama has created so much buzz that the Spurs have released more season ticket packages to their fans. According to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, the Spurs have opened an additional 1,500 season ticket membership opportunities. The multi-game options include a full season with 42 home games, a half season with 20 games and a 10-home game plan.
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rarely speaks about his family but he opened up about his late wife Erin and his children during his acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday, Orsborn notes in a separate story. “I have a family,” Popovich said. “People think I just do basketball. I don’t really like it that much. Basketball doesn’t love us back, does it? We use it like a bar of soap, right? It pays our bills. It gives us a wonderful life. But I don’t remember it saying, ‘I love you, Pop.’ It’s different. It’s the family.”
  • Rockets center Alperen Sengun has set lofty goals for himself, according to Semih Tuna of “Of course, like everyone else, my goal is to become an All-Star,” Sengun said. “I hope I can do that.” Sengun averaged 14.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his second NBA season.

Texas Notes: Wembanyama, Ginobili, Popovich, Mavericks

Hall of Fame former Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili is ready to help the team’s 2023 No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama reach his astronomic ceiling, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.

“He is a different type of player than we have ever seen before, so it is a great challenge for the organization and also for him to grow together and to make it together,” Ginobili said. “He is 19, so he is going to have to work a lot, the organization is going to have to work a lot to develop him… But it is a thrill. It is a great problem in some ways to have. So, we are very excited to have him, the same as the community, of course.”

The 7’3″ big man from France looks to be an intimidating defensive force from the start of his rookie season, but he may take some time to develop as a scorer.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State.

  • On the heels of the addition of Wembanyama and a five-year contract extension, 74-year-old Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t nearly seem done with his Hall of Fame career as both the club’s coach and president of basketball operations. Nevertheless, he will be officially honored in Springfield tonight for his accomplishments thus far. With the four stars that helped propel him to his five titles now all enshrined, Popovich is finally open to his own induction, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Zillgitt takes stock of Popovich’s storied run in San Antonio, and examines what is to come.
  • Some surprising names mark Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype‘s list detailing the top 12 highest-earning names in Mavericks history, including Shawn Bradley, Erick Dampier, Wesley Matthews, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dwight Powell. Though the No. 1 most highly compensated Dallas player will hardly surprise anyone, the name at No. 2 certainly will.
  • In case you missed it, 2021 Rockets lottery pick Jalen Green impressed USA Basketball brass with his performance for the Select Team in a pre-FIBA World Cup scrimmage against Team USA in Las Vegas.

Hall Of Fame Notes: Nowitzki, P. Gasol, Spurs, Wade

Former Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki has earned plenty of well-deserved praise as he nears his Hall of Fame induction, which will take place on Saturday. Soccer star Toni Kroos believes his fellow countryman is the greatest German athlete in history, according to Marc Stein at Substack, who also writes a long list of his memories after covering Nowitzki’s career over the past 25 years.

For me,” said the Real Madrid midfield ace, “Dirk is above anybody.”

As Stein observes, Germany has had a number of incredible athletes, including former tennis stars Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, ex-Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, former soccer player Franz Beckenbauer, and Kroos himself. Yet Nowitzki stands alone for Kroos, not only for his accomplishments on the court, but for the way he carried himself off it.

At this point we don’t need to talk about his quality as a basketball player,” Kroos told Stein. “To be on this level for so many years, to achieve what he achieved and to make the money he made throughout his career and then to stay the same down-to-Earth guy is what really matters. My feeling is that, little by little, we are losing these Dirk Nowitzkis and Roger Federers. We need more Dirks in this world.”

Tim Cato of The Athletic passes along his own memories of Nowitzki’s career, as well as excerpts from fellow writers touching on the big man’s impact on Dallas and the people around him.

Here are more notes ahead of tomorrow’s enshrinement:

  • Pau Gasol is among the star-studded class that will be inducted. He recently gave an exclusive interview to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times that covered a number of topics, including his time with the Lakers, his relationship with Kobe Bryant, and what being a Hall-of-Famer means to him.
  • At a news conference on Friday, the Spanish big man touched on how special it was to be inducted with fellow Europeans Nowitzki and Tony Parker (France). “This class is an incredible accomplishment for European basketball and for international basketball as well,” Gasol said, per “The game has grown so much since we first started playing in the NBA. We can be very proud of having taken the international game to a higher level and very proud of seeing how current players are taking it to the next level. It’s very special to share this moment with Dirk and Tony. It’s remarkable, something that was unthinkable not too long ago. It’s beautiful to share the message that things are possible, things do change and improve, things are exciting, and allow any kid, boy or girl, to dream that they can do it too. That’s the exciting part for me.”
  • Parker will be the first Frenchman inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he’ll be joined by several people connected to the Spurs, including his former teammate Gasol, his ex-head coach Gregg Popovich, and former assistant coach Becky Hammon. That was one of the topics he discussed in a lengthy interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “That’s crazy,” Parker said. “I don’t even know if it happened in the history of the Hall of Fame that the player is going the same year as his coach. It’s pretty cool. And the whole process is pretty cool because Pau, I played against him since I’m 14 years old and played together at the Spurs. Dirk, a huge Texas rivalry and I went to his jersey retirement. Becky Hammon, people don’t know that a lot, but she’s like my big sister. We [are] very, very close friends. And we were in San Antonio together and spent a lot of time together. Coach Pop was my coach. There’s a lot of connections in that class that makes it very special for me.” Parker also recently sat down for an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews (YouTube link).
  • On Friday, Popovich said Parker’s first workout with the Spurs went so poorly the team almost didn’t draft him, but the guard’s agent convinced San Antonio to give him another shot, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “I hated him,” Popovich said. “I said I don’t want him. He’s a weenie. He’s unaggressive. He doesn’t like contact, he’s 19, and I don’t want to see him.” However, Parker “kicked ass” at his second workout. “The rest,” Popovich said, “is history.”
  • Ahead of his enshrinement, Heat legend Dwyane Wade answered 16 questions posed by Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, and discussed his post-NBA success with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

Spurs Sign Gregg Popovich To New Five-Year Contract

Gregg Popovich has signed a five-year contract to remain head coach of the Spurs, the team announced (via Twitter).

The new deal is worth $80MM, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, surpassing the record six-year, $78MM deal that Monty Williams got from the Pistons last month.

Popovich also serves as San Antonio’s president of basketball operations, and Wojnarowski notes that the contract doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the team’s head coach for the next five seasons (Twitter link).

At 74, Popovich is already the oldest coach in NBA history, and the new deal will keep him on the sidelines until nearly his 80th birthday if he coaches through its entirety. It also ensures that he will have ample time to develop Victor Wembanyama, who is expected to be San Antonio’s next franchise player.

Popovich’s most recent contract expired at the end of last season, but the Spurs have been operating under the assumption that he was coming back. That became a near certainty after the team landed the top spot in the lottery and the chance to draft Wembanyama.

Popovich first joined the Spurs in 1988 as the lead assistant to Larry Brown. He left for the Warriors for a couple of seasons in the early 1990s, but returned to San Antonio in 1994 as general manager and vice president of basketball operations.

Early in the 1996-97 season, Popovich named himself head coach, a position he has held ever since. He has the most coaching victories in NBA history with 1,364 and has guided the Spurs to all five NBA titles in franchise history. He has also been named Coach of the Year three times and has served as head coach in four All-Star games.

Popovich has been active in international competitions as well, leading Team USA to the gold medal in the most recent Olympics.

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Cissoko, Draft-Night Trade, Popovich

Saturday’s “Meet the Rookies” news conference in San Antonio was more like a party than a routine press event, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Roughly a hundred Spurs staff members joined some current players and a few franchise legends to get a glimpse of Victor Wembanyama, who was making his first official public appearance in the city.

“We have never seen anything like him before,” Manu Ginoblili said, “but we have to see how it all translates.”

Wembanyama joined Ginobili, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Sean Elliott and coach Gregg Popovich for an exclusive dinner Friday night. That came a few hours after the French big man was welcomed at the airport by thousands of Spurs fans who are counting on him to lead the team back to title contention.

“The last 72 hours have been tiring, but I’m really enjoying the moment,” Wembanyama told reporters today. “I’ve been welcomed warmly. It’s just really comfortable.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Second-round pick Sidy Cissoko also spoke at the press conference and said he can help the Spurs no matter how they decide to use him, per Tom Orsborn of The Express-News. The 19-year-old Frenchman played against Wembanyama while growing up before spending this season with the G League Ignite. “I can do kind of everything on the court and be as versatile as I can to help the team win,” Cissoko said. “If they want me to play the four, I can play the four. If they want me to play the one, I can play the one. Each position comes to me. Just anything to help us win in the end.”
  • Before selecting Cissoko, the Spurs made a trade with the Timberwolves, moving down from the 33rd pick to No. 44, Orsborn notes in a separate story. San Antonio took Leonard Miller for Minnesota and picked up two future second-round picks. “When the deal came about where we could move 33 for two picks out in the future, we thought that was a good opportunity for us,” general manager Brian Wright said. “… We were ecstatic (Cissoko) was there. He was someone we were considering if we had stayed at 33, so to get him at 44, we thought that was great.”
  • In the same piece, Popovich reflects on the good fortune that has allowed him to coach another overall No. 1 pick after winning multiple titles with Robinson and Duncan. “Certainly there is enough that’s happened in this organization that makes one wonder why we’ve been the recipients of so much serendipity for sure,” he said. “Of course, there’s no answer to that. I would just relate to you that we’ve mentioned many times in the past couple of decades and a half, I guess, when things weren’t going well and somebody showed some sympathy and empathy. We would just laugh and go, ‘Why? Why do we deserve that?’”

Spurs Rumors: Popovich, Wembanyama, Draft, Jones, PGs

Longtime Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t yet have a contract for the 2023/24 season, but the team is operating as if he’ll return, and there’s a sense that the impending addition of French phenom Victor Wembanyama may inspire him to stick around for longer than just one more year, writes LJ Ellis of

According to Ellis, a team source says there’s an expectation that Popovich will sign a three-year contract worth approximately $14MM per year. That would presumably make him the NBA’s highest-paid head coach in terms of annual salary, edging out Monty Williams‘ new deal with Detroit.

Here’s more from Ellis on the Spurs:

  • Ellis hears from a team source that Wembanyama is unlikely to play for the Spurs during either of July’s Summer Leagues (Sacramento or Las Vegas). Although the No. 1 pick may practice with the team, San Antonio wants to give him some time off from competitive action, since he has played into June in the LNB Pro A playoffs and hopes to suit up for France in the World Cup in August and September.
  • The Spurs, who control the 33rd and 44th overall picks in addition to No. 1, are active in draft-related trade talks, Ellis reports, adding that the club would like to acquire another first-round pick. Whether or not they land another first-rounder, the Spurs are unlikely to keep and use both of their second-rounders, Ellis says.
  • Popovich has conveyed a “strong preference” that San Antonio retains restricted free agent guard Tre Jones this offseason, according to Ellis, who says the head coach likes Jones’ competitiveness and what he brings to the locker room.
  • A scout for a Western Conference team believes the Spurs will be in the market for a veteran point guard this summer, identifying Chris Paul and Fred VanVleet as possible targets, Ellis says. While it would be a bit of a surprise if San Antonio spends big on a free agent, Wembanyama could certainly benefit from teaming up with a reliable play-maker.

Coaching Rumors: Lue, Popovich, Pistons, Raptors, Udoka

The Bucks and Suns are rumored to be interested in Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, but he’s still under contract for two more seasons, though only one of those is thought to be guaranteed.

There’s growing skepticism among those close to the coach and the Clippers that a rival team would be able to poach Lue away, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

The Clippers still hope to contend for championships going forward despite another disappointing playoff exit in 2022/23, and owner Steve Ballmer is known to be a “huge fan” of Lue. As Fischer observes, the Bucks and Suns also don’t have much in the form of future first-round picks, which would likely be necessary to acquire Lue — assuming the Clippers would even permit a rival to interview him, and there’s no indication they would — while he’s still under contract.

The Bucks do have their 2029 first-rounder available, but Fischer suggests they’ll likely use it to acquire a player — either this offseason or in the future. Sources tell Fischer that Milwaukee contemplated dealing the pick to try to land Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic ahead of the February trade deadline.

Here are some more coaching rumors from around the NBA:

  • Gregg Popovich, the longest-tenured head coach in the league, is expected to stay with the Spurs for as long as he wants to continue coaching, and there’s no indication that the Hall-of-Famer plans to retire next season, especially after San Antonio won the draft lottery. However, Popovich’s contract expired at the end of the season, and he hasn’t signed a new deal yet, sources tell Fischer.
  • The fact that the Pistons have yet to hire one of their three coaching finalists has left coaching agents around the league wondering if they’ll reopen their search and consider more candidates, Fischer writes. The three finalists — Kevin Ollie, Charles Lee and Jarron Collins — met with owner Tom Gores last week, Fischer confirms. Detroit is thought to have interest in Monty Williams, who was fired by the Suns last week, so that might explain the holdup. That said, Adam Zagoria of hears from sources that the job is expected to come down to either Ollie or Collins (Twitter link).
  • According to Fischer, the Raptors hope to be “blown away” in an interview with one of their long list of coaching candidates. Toronto is believed to be open to an “unconventional” choice. Assistant coaches Jim Sann and Rico Hanes are expected to be retained regardless of who is named head coach, sources tell Fischer.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated hears (via Twitter) that Ime Udoka “wants to do right” by his former Celtics assistants, and will extend those interested an invitation to join him with the Rockets after his unceremonious departure from Boston. Royal Ivey, who worked with Udoka on the Nets, recently joined his staff in Houston.

Spurs Notes: Collins, Popovich, Champagnie, Offseason

Zach Collins doesn’t have a guaranteed contract for next season, but coach Gregg Popovich declared today that he’ll be the Spurs‘ starting center, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The 25-year-old big man has revived his career over the past two years in San Antonio after an ankle injury caused him to sit out the entire 2020/21 season. Popovich’s declaration means the Spurs are virtually certain to guarantee Collins’ $7.7MM salary for next year.

Collins has excelled since taking over the starting spot after Jakob Poeltl was traded to Toronto in February, Orsborn notes. Over that time, he has averaged 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals in 19 games while shooting 39.2% on three-pointers.

“He’s playing with abandon now, for a long time, for months,” Popovich said. “He’s added the three-point shot to his game, he’s balanced better on the post, he’s playing good defense. “… The fact he can shoot it and has gained confidence in it really makes him that much more dangerous.”

Popovich also revealed that Collins is finished for the season, missing this afternoon’s game and Sunday’s finale after being sent home due to a problem with stitches on his left hand.

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • The pronouncement from Popovich leads to speculation that he has already decided to return to the team next season, tweets NBA writer Marc Stein. The 74-year-old coach, who was announced as a Hall of Fame inductee last weekend, has been running the Spurs since 1996.
  • Julian Champagnie posted his fourth straight double-digit scoring performance on Saturday, Orsborn tweets. The rookie small forward has benefited from an increase in playing time over the past three weeks. “There is really only one way to learn the game, you have to just get thrown out there and learn to play,” Champagnie said. “That’s what they have been giving me.”
  • The most important work for the Spurs will start after the regular season wraps up on Sunday, Orsborn states in another Express-News article. The front office will turn its attention to the draft and free agency after one of the worst seasons in franchise history. However, the Spurs were able to accomplish their main goals, which were maximizing their chances at the No. 1 pick and developing the young talent they already have. “I feel like every single person on the roster got better,” Keldon Johnson said. “Obviously we didn’t win 30, 40, 50 games. We got better every single week and we stayed together the whole time.”

Western Notes: Doncic, Brunson, Bamba, Vassell, Sochan, Popovich

With the Mavericks seemingly headed for postseason elimination, Luka Doncic acknowledged that he misses former backcourt partner Jalen Brunson “a lot,” Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports.

“I mean, amazing guy, amazing player. For sure,” the Mavericks’ franchise player added.

Doncic describes the Mavericks’ season as “very disappointing” due to chemistry issues, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “I think you don’t see that chemistry we had before — I mean, especially last year,” Doncic said. “I think that chemistry was at the top, everybody. But chemistry builds not just not right away. It’s a long process.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers could have another frontcourt option as soon as Tuesday. They have upgraded Mohamed Bamba to doubtful for their game with Utah, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Bamba has been sidelined since March 5 with a left ankle sprain. In a Late Night Lake Show podcast, Buha said he “would not be surprised if (Bamba is) back by the end of the week.” (video link).
  • Spurs swingman Devin Vassell has been out since March 26 with a knee ailment. Jeremy Sochan has been sidelined since March 22, also due to a knee issue. It’s likely both are done for the season. Sochan has far exceeded the number of games he played last season at Baylor, while Vassell is coming off surgery performed in January, so the Spurs are playing it cautious, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets.
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that hearing he’d been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame was an “out of body experience,” Orsborn writes. Popovich got the news Saturday in a phone call from Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo. “Sort of a phone call you never think about or expect,” Popovich said “It’s like somebody telling you the earth is flat, some weird feeling that you have, an out-of-body experience, because it’s not what you grow up thinking.”