Popovich on Luka: ‘His skills are top-notch’

The Dallas Mavericks got out early against the Spurs on Friday night in San Antonio, and because of the greatness of Luka Doncic, they were able to hold the lead and defeat the Spurs 122-117.

Doncic finished the game with a near triple-double and had 36 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds. Dallas led the Spurs by as many as 18 points in this contest, and led by ten going into the fourth quarter.

However, the Spurs, who lost starting PG Dejounte Murray to a sprained ankle in the first quarter, were able to cut the lead to one late in the fourth, but Doncic hit a beautiful short bank shot to put Dallas up three, and on the next possession, Doncic drove to the lane and passed it out to Jalen Brunson who hit a dagger three to cement the game. 

After the win, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle talked about Doncic’s playmaking down the stretch of games. 

“It’s clear that Luka has great trust in his teammates,” Carlisle said. “The Denver game was another very close game. Milwaukee game was very close. In those situations, he made the right basketball play, got the ball to his teammates, and his teammates stepping into shots with force and confidence.”

Brunson, who had 16 points against San Antonio, added this about Doncic: “He does a lot for our team, makes a lot of plays for himself and for everybody else. I was ready just in case he wanted to dish it out to me, and I was ready to knock it down.”

Dallas was in the bottom half of the league in terms of winning close games last season. In this game, things got tough down the stretch against San Antonio, and Doncic and the Mavs executed.

“I think the biggest thing is making better decisions,” Doncic said about late game situations. “I think, give up a good shot for a better shot. I think that’s the key.”

Doncic is a stud, and it is a joy to watch when he is at his best. Before the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talked about what makes Doncic so good.

“He is a quintessential basketball player,” Popovich said. “He has an intrinsic feel for the game. He was built for this game… At that size to have that passing ability, that vision of the court. The confidence he plays with. He shoots the ball well. He competes; he’s just in love with the game of basketball, and his skills are top-notch, so he’s just a joy to watch.

After losing three straight, Dallas has now won two in a row and will go for three consecutive wins at home against the Rockets on Saturday night.

Watch as Pop talks Luka Doncic:

Pop on loss to Warriors: ‘If you shoot 4 for 33 from three, your defense better be pretty perfect’

The Spurs started slowly against the Warriors on Wednesday night and could not recover. San Antonio gave up 36 points and trailed by 12 after one quarter. The Spurs would fall behind by as many as 22 points in the first half and ultimately would lose on the road to Golden State 121-99.

San Antonio struggled with their shooting against the Warriors. They finished the game shooting 37% from the field, including 4/33 from three-point range. Conversely, their defense was not good. They allowed the Warriors to shoot 50% from the field and allowed Steph Curry to score 20 of his game-high 26 points in the first half. 

“I thought we had a bad start,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “They jumped on us at the beginning of game for whatever reasons, and we never got back. If you shoot 4 for 33 from three, your defense better be pretty perfect, and it wasn’t, but it’s gonna happen, nobody is going to go undefeated. Hopefully, we learned some things tonight and just keep at it.”

Dejounte Murray, who led San Antonio with 22 points, agreed with Popovich; the Spurs were hit hard early and were not able to respond.

“We came out in the first half and just got punched in the face and didn’t know how to get back up as a whole—not making shots don’t make it better,” Murray said. “Halftime, we tried to come out and fight and fight. They’re the Warriors, and they kept fighting, kept fighting, and we just couldn’t get over that hump.”

After playing seven of their last nine game on the road, the Spurs will play nine of their next eleven at home, but with no fans allowed in the building, Popovich thinks home-court advantage is not the same. 

“It’s pretty even-steven,” he said. “I think I mentioned that to you guys before. There’s not much of a home-court advantage, I don’t think.”

While home-court advantage may not be the same, getting home and not traveling can’t hurt, and based on the way they shot the ball on Wednesday night, maybe San Antonio could use some time off the road and could benefit from some home cooking.

Patty Mills: ‘He(DeRozan), obviously, loves the big moments’

Saturday night’s road victory for the Spurs(5-4) was all about DeMar DeRozan. The 12-year veteran scored 13 of his game and season-high 38 points in the 4th quarter and overtime, and ultimately, the Spurs would defeat Minnesota(2-7) 125-122 in overtime. The Spurs play Minnesota again on Sunday night

“DeMar won the game for us,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “He and Patty(Mills) playing out there with their pick-and-roll created a lot of opportunities. DeMar was the guy.”

Spurs’ Dejounte Murray, who scored 22 points against Minnesota, added this on DeRozan: “He’s a beast. That’s DeMar. Definitely, not the 82nd(ESPN’s list of best players in league) best player in the NBA. Damn sure, tell you that. That’s DeMar; we believe in him. We are really, really confident in him. We got the win; that’s all that matters.”

Late in games, DeRozan is one of the go-to guys for the Spurs, and according to him, it’s his job to make things happen for San Antonio down the stretch.

“It’s a mindset that I have, especially late in games when games are close,” he said. “I feel like It’s imperative; it’s my job to go out there and make something happen and pull out a win.”

Patty Mills, another 12-year veteran, who scored 21 points off the bench against Minnesota, added this about DeRozan: “He(DeRozan), obviously, loves the big moments, and loves to makes plays, loves to make big plays. He lives for those moments.’

San Antonio is 3-0 on their current five-game road trip, including wins over the Clippers and Lakers, and the veterans are leading the way. Patty Mills led the Spurs with 27 points in the team’s win over the Clippers, and LaMarcus Aldridge, a 15-year veteran, led the team with 28 points in San Antonio’s win over the Lakers, and of course, DeRozan’s big-time effort against Minnesota on Saturday night. 

According to Mills, the Spurs’ leaders are showing the young guys what it takes to close out games.

“Not being rattled in those big moments. I think that’s huge,” Mills said. “In terms of leadership and actions. The conversations that we’re having on the side, making sure the young boys understand what we’re doing while we are doing it. Helping them here and there have been good. The actions that we’re showing on the court, knowing who the leaders are and how to go about certain situations, and that helps young guys learn on the fly as well.”

Getting Aldridge back, who missed the team’s winless three-game homestand, helps. Now, after nine games, the Spurs are over .500 and playing some terrific basketball, and the veterans are leading the way.

Popovich on Trump: ‘He loved those people hitting the Capitol because that’s what he cares about'(VIDEO)

Popovich is not happy with Donald Trump

Before the Spurs’ huge road win against the Lakers on Thursday night, San Antonio’s head coach Gregg Popovich gave his thoughts on the riots at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Sadly, five people died, and several were injured.  

It was a sad scene for sure and a scene that should have never happened, and according to Popovich, Trump enjoyed it.

“He loved those people hitting the Capitol because that’s what he cares about. He’s incapable of caring, and it’s sad because he’s a deranged, really flawed individual, but he’s also dangerous,” Popovich said. “That’s why I don’t think it’s so far-fetched for people to start talking about the 25th Amendment.”

The 25th Amendment allows the president to be removed if he/she “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” 

Listen to Pop’s rant about Trump below:

 

Spurs’ Johnson: ‘Whoever is put in front of me, I go at them and give them everything I got’

Two straight games against the world-champion Lakers and two consecutive losses for the Spurs, but the game on Friday night was much closer. Behind Anthony Davis’ season-high 34 points and 11 rebounds and LeBron James, who recorded a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, the Lakers defeated San Antonio 109-103 at AT&T Center. After starting 2-0, the Spurs have now lost three straight.

The Lakers(4-2) defeated the Spurs(2-3) in San Antonio on Wednesday night 121-107. Coming into Friday’s action, San Antonio was again without LaMarcus Aldridge for the second game in a row due to a knee injury. 

In Friday’s game, the Spurs entered the fourth quarter up by four against the Lakers, but they were outscored by 10 in the final period, and the Lakers finished the game with a 9-0 run. There are no moral victories at this level, but according to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, although the team lost, these types of games are good for the young Spurs.

“First seven out of ten games to start out are against playoffs teams,” Popovich said after the game. “We’re going to be on the road here for about nine or ten days. so It’s a tough start for those young guys; they’ll benefit from it in the long run.”

The young guys stepped up in a losing effort for San Antonio against the Lakers, including Keldon Johnson, who had a career-high 26 points against Los Angeles. 

“Whoever is put in front of me, I go at them and give them everything I got,” Johnson said. “That’s why I work hard in the offseason on my game. I put it into use when I go play. I just go out there and compete.”

DeMar DeRozan, who chipped in with 23 points against the Lakers, thinks the Spurs can build off what they did against Los Angeles on Friday night.

“We made a lot of things tough on the Lakers tonight,” DeRozan said. “Overall, just continue to build from that. We played the champs at a high level.”

Friday’s game also saw the return of Derrick White. The fourth-year guard made his season debut after recovering from toe surgery on his left foot in the offseason. He also signed a reported four-year, $ 73 million extension with the Spurs in December. White, who is on a minutes restriction, scored nine points in 23 minutes on Friday night.

The Lakers are world-champions for a reason, and beating them was not going to be easy, especially without Aldridge. San Antonio hosts another playoff team in the Utah Jazz on Sunday, and after Utah, they begin a five-game road trip, so it’s important they get that game against Utah before they head out on the road.

Hammon on coaching Spurs: ‘It’s a big deal; it’s a substantial moment’

We have seen so many things go wrong in 2020, whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic or the untimely deaths of so many people in the world of sports and entertainment, 2020 will be a year that many will talk about for a long time.

On Wednesday in San Antonio, we finally got some good news and another event we will be talking about for a long time. Former WNBA star and current Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon made history. After Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter in the team’s 121-107 loss to the Lakers, Hammon became the first woman in NBA history to serve as a head coach.

The 43-year old Hammon has been an assistant coach with the Spurs for six seasons, and she coached San Antonio’s summer league team in 2015. When the Spurs hired Hammon in 2014, she became the second female coach in league history. 

After the game, Hammon discussed what it meant to be the first female to lead an NBA team.

“Obviously, it’s a big deal; it’s a substantial moment,” Hammon said. “I got traded here in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio apart of the Spurs and sports organization, with the (Silver) Stars and everything for 13 years, so I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me, and building me and getting me better. Honestly, in the moment, I was just trying to win the game. 

“I say this a lot, but I try not to think about the huge picture and the huge aspect of it because it can get overwhelming. It’s my job to go in there and be focused for those guys and make sure that I’m helping them do the things that will help us win. I really have not had time to reflect. I haven’t looked at my phone, so I have no idea what’s going on outside of AT&T Center tonight.”

Many believe that Hammon will be a head coach in the NBA in the near future, and when she does, she and others will always remember December 30, 2020.

Watch below as Hammon talks being the head coach for the Spurs on Wednesday night:

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.”  

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.”