Popovich: ‘It’s a sad day for all of us who knew Jerry Sloan’

Former longtime Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan died on Friday. He was 78.

Sloan had been battling Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, and he died from complications of the conditions. Before his coaching career, Sloan played 11 seasons in the NBA with the Bullets and Bulls, and he would retire from the NBA in 1976.

After retiring from the NBA, Sloan would coach the Bulls from 1979-1982, and in 1988, Sloan would coach the Utah Jazz, where he had a lot of success, including two NBA Finals appearances.  Both times in the Finals, the Jazz would lose to Jordan and the Bulls.

He would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Sloan resigned from the Jazz and ended his coaching career in 2011. After 26 years of coaching(23 with the Jazz), he finished with 1221 wins. 

A man who looked up to Sloan was Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and on Friday, Popovich issued the following statement regarding the passing of Jerry Sloan:

 “It’s a sad day for all of us who knew Jerry Sloan. Not only on the basketball court but, more importantly, as a human being. He was genuine and true. And that is rare.

 “He was a mentor for me from afar until I got to know him. A man who suffered no fools, he possessed a humor, often disguised, and had a heart as big as the prairie.”  

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Spurs announce coaching staff for 2019-20 season

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that Mitch Johnson has been promoted to an assistant coach while Darius Songalia has been elevated to a player development assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff.

At the same time the Spurs have announced the following promotions and additions to the basketball operations staff: Brandon James – vice president of basketball administration and deputy general counsel, Dave Telep – director of player personnel, Adam Glessner – senior director of basketball intelligence, Phil Cullen – director of basketball operations and innovation, Niraj Mulji – director of basketball strategy, Nick Repole – director of research and development, Landry Fields – Austin Spurs general manager, Tyler Self – Austin Spurs assistant general manager and Keon Weise – performance informatic scout.

 Johnson has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach for the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s G League affiliate, where he helped guide the team to the 2018 G League Championship.

 Songalia enters his second season with the Silver and Black after spending last year as a quality assurance assistant in the video department. Before coming to the Spurs, he played eight seasons in the NBA.

 James enters his eighth season in the Spurs front office as in-house counsel for basketball operations responsible for strategy and innovation, legal affairs and CBA, salary cap and other administrative matters.

 Telep is now in his seventh season with San Antonio. He was promoted to director of scouting in August 2016 after spending the past three seasons as the team’s scouting coordinator.  

Glessner is set to begin his second season with the Silver and Black. Prior to joining the Spurs he spent four seasons with the Detroit Pistons as the team’s director of player personnel after being promoted from pro scout in 2016.  

Cullen enters his fourth season with the Spurs after spending the last three years as the team’s director of basketball strategy.

 Mulji enters his sixth season with the Spurs. He’s spent the past three seasons as basketball operations manager after joining the Silver and Black in 2014 as a basketball operations quality assurance assistant.

 Repole is set to begin his fourth season in San Antonio after previously serving as director of basketball information systems.  

Fields makes the move to Austin after spending the past three seasons serving as a college scout. He originally joined the Spurs in 2016 after a five-year NBA playing career.

 Self enters his third season in San Antonio after spending the last two seasons as a quality assurance assistant in the basketball operations department.

 Weise joins the Spurs after spending 16 seasons with the Orlando Magic in various different roles, most recently head athletic trainer from 2010-18.

2019-20 San Antonio Spurs Basketball Operations Staff Additions and Promotions

 Mitch Johnson – Assistant Coach

Darius Songalia – Player Development Assistant

Brandon James – Vice President of Basketball Administration and Deputy General Counsel

Dave Telep – Director of Player Personnel

Adam Glessner – Senior Director of Basketball Intelligence

Phil Cullen – Director of Basketball Operations and Innovation

Niraj Mulji – Director of Basketball Strategy

Nick Repole – Director of Research and Development

Landry Fields – Austin Spurs General Manager

Tyler Self – Austin Spurs Assistant General Manager

Keon Weise – Performance Informatics Scout

Popovich on Team USA: ‘I wish I could have gotten them closer, but it didn’t happen’

In its final 2019 FIBA World Cup game, the USA men (6-2) had five players score in double-figures and recorded 29 assists in an 87-74 win over Poland (4-4) on Saturday afternoon at Wukesong Sport Arena in Beijing, China.

The USA finished the tournament in seventh place and now is 129-29 all time in FIBA World Cup action. As one of the top two finishing teams from the FIBA Americas zone, the USA also qualified for the 2020 Olympics.

“There are wonderful teams and wonderful coaches all over the world, so there’s no surprise in any of that,” said Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach). “You go compete, and you know the best teams win. I was thrilled with the group of guys that we were able to coach. They made the sacrifice. They worked hard. They let us coach them, and we got them to a certain point in a short period of time. I wish I could have gotten them closer, but it didn’t happen.”

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz) was the USA top scorer with 16 points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point, and a USA men’s World Cup record-tying 10 assists.

“You know, obviously, we didn’t get the result that we had wanted, but to be able to go to war with a bunch of guys who really sacrificed not only their time, their bodies, there’s not a lot more you can ask for,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never been a part of USA Basketball, and this was an incredible experience. Obviously, with the game today we showed a lot of character, because even after losing some teams can go the other way and say whatever, and that wasn’t the case with these guys. I’m really happy and blessed to have this opportunity.”

Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets) finished with 14 points; Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) added 13 points and six assists; Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs) contributed 12 points and seven assists; and Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings) tallied 10 points.

“It was a good win here today,” White said. “We wanted to go out winning. I mean, obviously, we fell short of our goal, but overall I think it was special to play with these guys in the locker room, and we had a great group of guys. I think we all learned a lot from it.”

The USA got off to a strong start and shot 57.9% from the field in the first quarter, including 10 assists on 11 field goals, while its defense held Poland to 0-of-7 from 3-point.

With the USA leading 18-14, the Americans closed on a 10-0 run and went ahead 28-14 after the first 10 minutes.

Seven scorers contributed for the USA in the second period, which increased its advantage by three points and headed into the halftime locker room with a 47-30 lead.

The third quarter was Poland’s strongest effort, and they outscored the USA 25-16 in the period, including a 14-2 stretch that cut the lead to seven points, 54-47, at 4:07. The USA pushed its cushion back to 63-49 at 1:17, but Poland sank two 3-pointers and made it to 63-55 with 10 minutes to play.

Twice early in the fourth quarter, Poland again narrowed the gap to seven points, but each time the USA responded, outscoring Poland 24-19 in the fourth period to earn the 87-74 win.

“We came out here, and we checked a couple boxes, but we didn’t get everything accomplished,” said Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), who collected eight rebounds to go with his seven points and four blocked shots. “We qualified this team for the Olympics coming up, but we didn’t get that gold medal – something that is going to stick with us for a very long, shoot, the rest of our lives. And, you know, it hurts a little bit, but we came out here, and I think we did the best we could, given the circumstances.”

For the game, the USA shot 50.8% (31-61 FGs) from the field and 48.0% from 3-point (12-25 3pt FGs), and it held Poland to 39.7% shooting (29-73 FGs) and just 25.9% from 3-point (7-27 3pt FGs).

Photo/courtesy: USA Basketball

Pop on Team USA’s loss to France: ‘Any loss hurts, and this situation hurts more’

Physical play and a critical scoring drought in the final minutes spelled the end of a major streak for the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Team.

The top-ranked USA lost to third-ranked France 89-79 Thursday in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals at Dongguan, China, snapping a 58-game winning streak in international competition using NBA players. It is the first loss in 25 World Cup games for the U.S. since falling to Greece 101-95 in the 2006 semifinals. The loss also means the U.S., which locked up a spot in next year’s Olympic Games in its previous game, will not medal at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.

“Any loss hurts, and this situation hurts more, but life goes on,” USA coach Gregg Popovich said. “This is very important. We would have loved to have won, just like any other team, we would have loved to win games in this tournament. But, we all have family and lives and life moving on.”

The U.S. (5-1), which was bidding to become the first nation to win three straight World Cups, won’t have any time to lick its wounds. The Americans will face a formidable Serbia (4-2), ranked fourth in the world, on Thursday in Dongguan (7 a.m. EDT) and will finish no better than fifth place. Meanwhile, France – which had been 0-9 against the U.S. in major international play – will face Argentina (6-0) in Friday’s semifinals in Beijing.

Donovan Mitchell was the go-to guy for the U.S., scoring 29 points, but none in the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart had 11 points and Kemba Walker 10. Evan Fournier, who plays for the Orlando Magic, had 22 points for France, which closed the game on a 22-5 run. Rudy Gobert – Mitchell’s teammate with the Utah Jazz and two-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year – added 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for France, while Nando De Colo had 18 points.

“I’m looking at the times there were guys open that I missed,” Mitchell said. “There were possessions on defense where I threw the ball in the backcourt when we were down six. I can care less about the 29 (points). To me what sticks out is the things I did wrong. That’s what’s on everybody’s mind. Anybody could have had a good game. Whether is 29, nine or zero, we lost.”

Added Smart: “We learned a lot. For a lot of us it was our first time (in a FIBA tournament) so we came out and gave it everything. I’m proud of every last one of my teammates. We got another game tomorrow so it’s not over with. We have to come out and compete.”

The U.S. trailed 45-39 at halftime. Fournier and Gobert each had 13 points in the half, with Fournier proving to be the more difficult matchup. Mitchell had 15 points for the U.S. France outscored the U.S. 12-6 at the free-throw line and held a 21-12 advantage on the boards.

In the third quarter, France held a 10-point lead twice, but Mitchell single-handedly kept the U.S. in the game by scoring 14 points. Smart hit three free throws to put the Americans up 63-62 with 1:40 left in the third quarter, their first lead since 29-27 with 6:03 left in the second. The U.S. took a 66-63 lead into the fourth quarter.

Walker, the Americans’ leading scorer at 14.6 points per game but who battled foul trouble Thursday, made his first field goal with 8:11 left in the game, his stepback jumper giving the U.S. a 72-65 lead. It was just his third shot of the game.

The U.S. maintained its advantage at 74-67 on a Khris Middleton layup with 7:39 remaining. But France chipped away and finally tied the game 76-76 on Frank Ntilikina’s 3-pointer with 4:35 left. Fournier added a go-ahead driving layup, Gobert had an emphatic slam and Ntilikina had a long jumper that made it 82-76 with 2:05 left. The U.S. was unable to sustain any offense the rest of the game.

“We knew it was going to be a (tough) game,” said U.S. forward Jaylen Brown, who had nine points and four rebounds. “We just didn’t do what needed to be done. At the end of the day, we came up short. France was better than us tonight unfortunately.”

Gobert was a key factor in the game as he controlled the paint. He drew two early fouls on Myles Turner, negating much of the U.S. inside game. Still, the U.S. had opportunities it did not capitalize on.

“It really wasn’t so much their size as it was our execution,” Smart said. “We were really stagnant on the offensive end and with that being said, they hurt us on the defensive end. They moved us and we didn’t do it on the other end. It bit us on the butt.”

After starting 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, the Americans made just 4 of 11 tries, including several key misses that thwarted a rally.

“That hurt. That hurt bad man, just to miss those free throws,” Walker said. “I really wanted to make those for my teammates. But sometimes that’s just the way the ball goes. Very, very unfortunate. But now it’s nothing I can control.”

Why it’s time for the Spurs to let Kawhi Leonard go

From David Robinson to Tim Duncan, the Spurs have found ways to keep their stars in San Antonio, but in life and sports, you have outliers, and it seems Kawhi Leonard is that outlier.

Under Gregg Popovich, the Spurs won five NBA titles. Pop, along with Duncan and Robinson, helped make San Antonio a winning organization. It helped that superstars like Duncan and Robinson bought into the “Spurs Way.” Unfortunately for the Spurs, Leonard is not Robinson or Duncan

Leonard reportedly wants out of San Antonio and would like to be in Los Angeles. According to reports, the Lakers and Spurs are in talks about a possible trade involving Leonard.  As we all know, Leonard is said to be unhappy with the way San Antonio handled his quad injury, which caused him to miss 72 games last season.

In addition to the Lakers, Philly, Boston, Cleveland, and Clippers have reportedly made offers to the Spurs for Leonard. While the Lakers are reportedly in a rush to get Leonard in the fold,  to make Los Angeles appealing to LeBron James, the Spurs do not have to move fast. They can wait this thing out.

Recently, Popovich met with Leonard in San Diego to try to work things out with the two-time All-Star, and last week, Spurs GM R.C. Buford had this to say about Leonard:

“While none of us would wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him, and we’ll explore all of our options. But the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as a part of our group,” Buford said.

The Spurs can offer Leonard a five-year $219 million contract, so there is always the possibility that they can work out, but it seems clear that he wants out. At this point, there is no need to hold onto him. Pop and Buford need to try to find the best possible package for Leonard.

In reality, the Spurs are in transition. You wonder how long Popovich is going to stick around, especially after the death of his longtime wife, Erin. Also, some believe Pop could retire as early as the end of next season.

The Bulls of the 90s were able to win six titles, but after Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Scottie Pippen left, the team struggled for many years. With Leonard in the fold, and the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge, you thought the transition from Tim Duncan would be seamless, and the transition was relatively smooth, until now.

If the Spurs can get a nice haul in any Leonard trade, this team can still be competitive, but in terms of winning titles again, that might take some time.

While it might be painful, it’s time for the Spurs to move on from Kawhi Leonard.

Johnson: ‘If anybody insinuates that the Spurs didn’t do a great job at trying to take care of the health of Kawhi, is foolishness to me’

Last week, former Spur Bruce Bowen came out in support of the Spurs organization. Today, another former Spurs legend followed suit.

Avery Johnson, who played ten seasons in San Antonio, is having a hard time believing that the Spurs would do anything to jeopardize the health of any player, including Kawhi Leonard.

“Obviously, Gregg Popovich is my mentor. I have a long tradition with the Spurs. I had a great run with them; I had a great run with the Mavs; helping them to the Finals in 2006. All of those things are great. But the truth of the matter is, if anybody insinuates that the Spurs didn’t do a great job at trying to take care of the health of Kawhi Leonard, is foolishness to me,” Johnson said on ESPN’s First Take today.  “I’ve watched them take care of David Robinson; Tim Duncan has had health issues, injury situations. I’ve had some different injury situations, and we’ve always had the best care, from the best doctors. Wherever they are, we’ll find them. The Spurs are a high-level organization. Just to insinuate that the Spurs are not doing what’s in the best interest of Kawhi Leonard from a health standpoint, I just think that is ridiculous.”

Leonard,  26, who played in only nine games this season due to a quad injury, is reportedly unhappy with the way the Spurs have handled his injury. The two-time All-Star reportedly wants out of San Antonio, and would like to play in Los Angeles.

However, the Spurs are reportedly only looking to trade Leonard to an Eastern Conference team. Also, Spurs GM R. C. Buford would like to keep Leonard in San Antonio, so how this plays out should be very interesting.

 

HOF Isiah Thomas on Kawhi with Spurs: ‘I think we hope it all works itself out'(AUDIO)

The San Antonio Spurs are in a difficult position. According to reports, their best player Kawhi Leonard wants out. While the Spurs were able to make it to the playoffs last season without Leonard, who played in only nine games due to a quad injury, they were easily beaten in five games by the Warriors in the first round. Therefore, Leonard is an essential piece for this team moving forward.

The Spurs have a huge decision to make. Do they appease Leonard and make a trade or do they try to work it out?

Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas would like to see Leonard stay in San Antonio, but with the report that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich could retire as early as after next season, this could complicate things, according to Thomas:

“I think we hope it all works itself out, but you know another thing that has popped up in that situation now, (if you’re)Kawhi, you say, ‘Okay, I come back,’ and then if he comes back, is Popovich going to be his coach? Is Popovich going to stay through the end of his contract,” Thomas recently told the Go4it podcast.

‘I think those two they have a lot to really discuss and talk about because there are so many ‘ifs’ in their conversation. If Pop stays, If Kawhi comes back, how’s he going to feel, team building, everything else; the San Antonio way.”

The Spurs have been the “Gold Standard” in the NBA, so to hear any player question that organization, the way Leonard has reportedly done, is surprising. According to Thomas, what makes the Spurs organization the “Gold Standard” is Popovich, but that could all change if Pop retires:

“I think we all understand while we give San Antonio gold stars for being the model organization,” Thomas said. “It’s really Popovich who’s the organization with the gold stars, so if he leaves, we don’t know what type of organization the San Antonio Spurs will be.”

After the recent death of his wife, Erin, you wonder how long Pop will coach.

Pop and Spurs have a significant amount of work to do in trying to fix things with Leonard, but if the end is near for Pop, it could be challenging to keep Leonard around.

Thomas talks Kawhi Leonard at the 37:41 mark:

 

Editor’s note:  The original story had the Spurs losing in 4 to the Warriors. The story was corrected to indicate that the Spurs lost in 5 to the Warriors.

An emotional LeBron James reacts to the death of Erin Popovich(WATCH)

It was an emotional night in the NBA after the announcement of the death of Erin Popovich today; the wife of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

Many around the NBA reacted to the news of her death, including Kevin Durant, and Cavaliers star LeBron James.

After helping the Cavs beat the Pacers 100-97 in Game 2 of that series, James reacted to the death of Erin Popovich:

Based on  LeBron and Durant’s reaction, players around the league love Popovich.

 

Kevin Durant reacts to the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife(WATCH)

Erin Popovich, who was the wife of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, died on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Spurs.  She was 67.

According to ESPN, Gregg and Erin were married for four decades and had two children and two grandchildren.

Warriors star Kevin Durant reacted to the death of Erin Popovich:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gregg Popovich and his family.