Wade, Nowitzki, Pop headline 2023 Hall of Fame nominees

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday the list of eligible candidates for the Class of 2023, and man, there are some big names, including first-time nominees Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, Dwyane Wade, and the 1976 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team.

Finalists from the North American and Women’s committee for the Class of 2023 will be announced on Friday, February 17, at 5:30 p.m. ET in Salt Lake City, Utah, during NBA All-Star Weekend.

The entire Class of 2023, including those selected by the direct-elect committees, will be unveiled during the NCAA Final Four in Houston, Texas, on Saturday, April 1, in a nationally televised broadcast at 11:00 a.m. EST.

Enshrinement weekend will begin on Friday, August 11, with the Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala, followed by the Enshrinement ceremony on Saturday, August 12, at Springfield’s historic Symphony Hall.

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Ex-Spur Primo says he will seek help for mental health issues after being waived by team

In a very interesting move, the San Antonio Spurs have waived guard Joshua Primo, the team announced Friday. 

Primo, who was on the Spurs’ injured list with a left glute soreness, was selected by the Spurs with the 12th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft out of Alabama.

Recently, the Spurs picked up the third-year option on Primo for the 2023-24 season.

Last season, the 19-year-old appeared in 50 games for San Antonio, averaging 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 19.3 minutes. Primo also spent time with the Austin Spurs and averaged 16.6 points, a team-high 5.6 assists, and 3.0 rebounds in 19 games.

“It is our hope that, in the long run, this decision will serve the best interest of both the organization and Joshua,” said Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO RC Buford said in th press release announcing the move.

According to the team, the Spurs organization, including front office executives, coaching staff, and players, will have no additional comments to share at this time.

After the release, Primo sent a statement to ESPN on his release.

“I know that you all are surprised by today’s announcement. I’ve been seeking help to deal with previous trauma I suffered and will now take this time to focus on my mental health treatment more fully. I hope to be able to discuss these issues in the future so I can help others who have suffered in a similar way. I appreciate privacy at this time.”

Primo has a lot of ability, so whatever he did, the Spurs clearly were not comfortable going forward with him. Hopefully, he gets the help he needs to be better on and off the court.

Spurs announce 2022-23 schedule, team to play game at Alamodome

The San Antonio Spurs are a franchise in transition. Next season, the rebuild continues and begins on Oct. 19 at home against the Charlotte Hornets, the team announced Wednesday.

This is the team’s 50th anniversary season. On opening night, Spurs legend Manu Ginobili, who will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in September, will be on hand as his jersey in the rafters of the AT&T Center will be revealed with a Hall of Fame distinction at halftime

ALAMODOME RETURN

Commemorating 50 years in San Antonio, the Spurs will be “Back Home in the Dome” and return to play a game in the Alamodome for the first time since 2002, where they will host the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Friday, Jan. 13.

San Antonio is striving to break the NBA’s all-time attendance record for a regular season game by filling the Alamodome with Silver and Black fans. The league’s current record stands at 62,046 when the Atlanta Hawks hosted the Chicago Bulls in 1998, while the configuration for this year’s Alamodome game will utilize the entire stadium and hold the capacity to reach over 65,000 fans.

Schedule notes:

San Antonio is also set to host premier home games all season long, including the Los Angeles Lakers in back-to-back home games the two days after Thanksgiving on Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26. The Spurs welcome their interstate rival the Dallas Mavericks on New Year’s Eve, and the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics in San Antonio on Saturday, Jan. 7.

The Spurs will play three other home games away from the AT&T Center, part of the Spurs drive to deepen the team’s regional fanbase, with a game in Mexico City on Saturday, Dec. 17 against the Miami Heat, then in Austin against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, April 6 and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, April 8.

The Spurs will also hold a 2014 Championship Night on Tuesday, March 14, when San Antonio hosts the Orlando Magic.

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Spurs’ Popovich on return of Brett Brown: I’m thrilled to be able to hire such a good coach, human being, and dinner partner’

A familiar face has returned to San Antonio as the Spurs added former 76ers head coach Brett Brown as an assistant coach, the team announced Thursday.

Brown joins Mitch Johnson and Matt Nielsen on head coach Gregg Popovich’s staff.

“I’m thrilled to be able to hire such a good coach, human being, and dinner partner,” said Popovich via a press release from the team.

Before leading the 76ers, the 61-year-old Brown served as an assistant coach on Popovich’s staff in San Antonio for 11 seasons from 2002-13. He was a member of the Spurs organization for their first four championship seasons (1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007).  

Brown originally joined the Spurs as a member of their basketball operations department in 1998-99 but left after the season to become the Head Coach of the Sydney Kings of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL). He rejoined the Spurs in July of 2002 as the team’s Assistant Coach/Director of Player Development and was moved to the bench as an assistant coach prior to the 2006-07 season. Brown was named 76ers head coach in 2013, and during his time in Philadelphia, the team posted three-straight 50-win seasons from 2017-20 and made three straight postseason appearances.

In addition to his time with the Spurs, Brown coached in Australia. He started as an assistant coach with the Melbourne Tigers before being named head coach of the North Melbourne Giants in 1993 and earned NBL Coach of the Year honors in 1994 after leading the Giants to the National Championship. Brown also served as head coach of the Australian National Team from 2009-2012, leading the Boomers during the 2012 Summer Olympics and again from 2019-20.

Spurs release “1,336 Coach Pop NFT Collection”

The San Antonio Spurs announced the “1,336 Coach Pop NFT Collection” a special set of 1,336 exclusive non-fungible tokens that honor Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s 1,336 career wins, which now stand as the most of any coach in NBA history.

Featuring digital recreations of Popovich’s famous hand-drawn play cards that helped the Spurs win five NBA Championships, each one of the minted NFTs will be available March 14th on OpenSea with 100% of all proceeds going to the San Antonio Food Bank.

Each of the 1,336 animated NFTs feature a random combination of five hand-drawn plays from Popovich along with the five Spurs court designs that have served as the floor for each of his 26 seasons in San Antonio. Iconic Spurs plays drawn up by San Antonio’s leader like “Loop Shields” and “Lock and Lob” are combined with classic courts like the “Spurs Icon” and “Original Spurs Fiesta Logo” with Coach Pop’s signature included on each NFT.

In honor of Popovich’s five titles, the first 5 of 1,336 will stand alone as distinct one-of-one NFTs that will feature a completely unique play and court combination. These special five NFTs will be auctioned off to the highest bidder and will also include the original hard copy of the play card, hand-drawn and autographed by Popovich, along with a unique in-person VIP Spurs experience at a game in San Antonio next season.

First five combinations of Play Cards and Courts:

  1. Loop Shields x Spurs Icon

  2. Side Out of Bounds 212 x Throwback Spurs Primary Logo

  3. 5 Down Strong x Throwback Spurs Wordmark

  4. Lock and Lob x Fiesta Spurs Icon

  5. Circle Blu x Original Spurs Fiesta Logo

The remaining 1,331 of 1,336 will go on sale for 0.1 ETH apiece, with each NFT featuring a randomized distribution of play cards and courts that will be minted based on the percentage of Popovich’s wins that came on each of San Antonio’s five home floors that the Silver & Black played on during Coach Pop’s tenure.

The “1,336 Coach Pop NFT Collection” auction will go live on Monday, March 14 at 9 a.m. CT and will be open until Thursday, March 17 at 9 p.m. CT.

Pop on 1336 wins: ‘Something like this does not belong to one individual’

History was made Friday night in the NBA. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reached 1,336 wins in his career to become the winningest head coach in NBA history as the Spurs defeated the Jazz 104-102 at AT&T Center.

Pop passed Don Nelson (1,335 wins), who had held the record since 2010. After starting his career with the Spurs as an assistant coach from 1988-92, Popovich went to the Golden State Warriors for two seasons as an assistant coach under Nelson. 

“Something like this does not belong to one individual,” Popovich said postgame. “Basketball’s a team sport. You preach to your players that they have to do it together, and that’s certainly been the case in my life with all the wonderful players and coaches, the staff that I’ve been blessed with, the support of this wonderful city.”

After the win, the team tried to celebrate with Pop, but he wanted no parts. Actually, the players might have to pay for that celebration.

“Yes, they know how much I enjoy that sort of thing,” Popovich said playfully. “And I’m gonna bring them all in and have them run suicides before the game tomorrow.”

Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA Championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014) and has the third-most playoff wins in league history (170) and the record for most consecutive winning regular seasons with 23 in a row from 1997-2019.

A three-time NBA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2012, and 2014, Popovich is in year 26 with the Spurs, and he’s the longest-tenured active coach in all four U.S. major sports leagues.

Internationally, Popovich served as head coach of the USA Basketball Senior Men’s National Team from 2017- 20 and led Team USA to a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics.

It was a great night for San Antonio and a great night for Popovich.

Watch below as Pop reacts to 1336 wins:

 

Popovich on winning gold: ‘Every championship is special, and the group you’re with is special’

At times, many thought that the Team USA men’s basketball team would not win gold in Tokyo, especially after losing exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia in Las Vegas and losing to France in their Olympic opener.

However, due to the greatness of Kevin Durant, Team USA was able to capture its fourth consecutive gold medal by defeating France 87-82 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Saturday.

Durant, who scored 29 points in the gold medal game, was the leader for Team USA and has played a significant role in each of the last three golds. He’s scored 30 points in each of the previous two gold-medal games and now is tied with Carmelo Anthony for the most gold medals in Olympic men’s basketball history.

“I hate to compare stuff because you know everything is its own moment,” Durant said postgame. “But this is one of those special journeys that it’s just hard to describe because each and every one of us put in that work every single day, from the coaches to the trainers, to the players. We all came in with that goal of, ‘Let’s finish this thing off. Let’s build a family. Let’s build this team. Let’s grow this team every day.’ And when you are part of a team that’s evolving by the second, it’s just amazing to see.”

U.S. coach Gregg Popovich has five NBA titles, and now, he has a gold medal.

“Every championship is special, and the group you’re with is special,” he said. “But I can be honest and say this is the most responsibility I’ve ever felt because you’re playing for so many people that are watching and for your country and other countries involved. The responsibility was awesome, and I felt it every day for several years now. I’m feeling pretty light now and looking forward to getting back to the hotel and having something.”

Milwaukee Bucks teammates Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who joined the Olympic team in the early morning hours before the U.S. played France in pool play, became the fourth and fifth players to win the NBA Finals and an Olympic gold in the same year.

According to Holiday, this was a great summer.

“Getting in at one in the morning, me, Book(Devin Booker) and Khris(Middleton), and then playing that night against France, losing that game and then being able to go through the rest of the tournament and then winning the gold medal game,” Holiday said. “I don’t know — I guess me thinking about it, and me telling that story, man, that’s a hell of a summer.”

Give this team a lot of credit. They battled hard to win a gold medal. In the end, the world has caught up. However, the United States is still the top dog in men’s basketball.

Photo: (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Keldon Johnson on role with Team USA: ‘I’m here to be the energy guy’

USA Basketball Men’s National Team got off to a rocky start during their series of exhibitions games in Las Vegas. Team USA lost their first two games to Nigeria and Australia but won its final two, including defeating a very good Spain team 83-76 on Sunday night.

Keldon Johnson, who was recently added to Team USA, was huge in this contest. The Spurs forward scored 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter, and Team USA, who trailed throughout the game until an 11-0 run helped the team take complete control in the third quarter.

“Just being active, being a spark,” said Johnson of his performance. “I’m here to be the energy guy and bring life to the team whenever we need it. In the third quarter when I came in, we needed a spark.”

Team USA and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich added: “Keldon Johnson just played a really He shot if he was open, he made cuts to the bucket. When he did go to the bucket, he was very physical. And he was solid in the half-court defense. So, he had a very, very good night.”

Damian Lillard scored 19 points, Johnson had 15, Kevin Durant added 14, and Zach LaVine tallied 13 points for the USA, which heads to Tokyo on Monday and will face France in its Olympic opener on July 25. The Americans have won the past three Olympic gold medals. Ricky Rubio led Spain with 23 points.

According to Popovich, after a slow start, Team USA is starting to come together.

“We just had our sixth practice the other day,” Popovich said. “And after these exhibition games, that’s what we look for — getting better at both ends of the court, learning how to play with each other, because these guys have never played together before. And I think we’re on the right track in that regard, so that’s what I feel good about.”

Team USA has played better in the last two games, and if they come together, talent-wise, there’s no better.

Photo: Team USA

Australia’s Ingles on playing Team USA: ‘We walked into this game expecting to win’

Before these exhibition games, the USA Mens National Team was 54-2 in exhibition contests since 1992.

However, 2021 is a different world for Team USA.

Two nights after losing to Nigeria, the U.S. lost to Australia 91-83 at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Monday night.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, it is the first time Team USA has lost back-to-back exhibition games since professionals started playing in 1992.

Coming into the contest, Australia was ranked third globally by FIBA, and if it was not clear before, it’s clear now that winning a gold medal in Tokyo won’t be easy.

Damian Lillard, who scored 22 points against Australia, sees first-hand how much the world has closed the gap.

“These (international) teams are experienced, and we are still working at becoming a team,” Lillard said. “We’re not just going to roll the ball out and beat these teams … these teams have a starting five of NBA players now.”

Again, the closing of the gap in competition was a point of emphasis for Popovich, who said that believing the U.S. has continually beaten every team by a large margin over the last decade is an error in thinking.

“We have had close games against four or five international teams, and the good teams don’t get blown out,” Popovich said.

Australia was led by Spurs guard Patty Mills, who finished with 22 points and Joe Ingles, a Utah Jazz forward, added 17 points.

According to Ingles, Australia expected to beat the U.S. on Monday night.

“We walked into this game expecting to win,” Ingles said. “No disrespect to them, they’re a hell of a team; obviously, the guys they’ve got on their roster and Pop standing up there is always nice to see, but we came in here expecting to win the game, and that’s what we did.”

Team USA gets back at it on Tuesday night against Argentina. Maybe this will be the night that Team USA puts it all together. 

Photo: (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)
 

 

Team USA’s Popovich on loss to Nigeria: ‘I’m kind of glad it happened’

The last time Team USA battled Nigeria, it was not very close. Team USA defeated Nigeria 110-66 in an exhibition game back in 2016. In addition, Nigeria played the U.S. in its debut at the 2012 London Games and lost 156-73.

That was then; this is now. 

On Saturday night, Nigeria hit 20 threes, including 11/19 in the second half, to shock Team USA 90-87 in an exhibition game at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Coming into this contest, the United States was 54-2 in exhibition games. 

Nigeria head coach Mike Brown, who currently serves as associate head coach for the Golden State Warriors under USA assistant coach Steve Kerr, had his team ready on Saturday night. Nigeria has seven players that are on NBA rosters, including the Miami Heat’s Gabe Vincent(Nnamdi), who led the team with 21 points.

It was a bad loss for the U.S., but according to Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich, this loss could be what this team needed.

“In a way, I’m kind of glad it happened,” Popovich said. “It means nothing if we don’t learn from it. It could be the most important thing in this tournament for us. To learn lessons from this.”

Nigeria outhustled and outrebounded Team USA and won the battle on the glass(46-34), which Popovich discussed after the game.

“Rebounding was a problem,” Popovich said. “The stats – I almost wanted to give it back to the stat guys and say, ‘Can you do these over? There’s got to be some mistakes. Do your homework over again.’ Because I thought we got murdered on the boards. We got beat on the boards, but I thought we got murdered.”

Kevin Durant led Team USA with 17 points, and Jayson Tatum added 15 points.

Fortunately for Team USA, this was an exhibition game, so they have time to clean things up and get right for the Olympics.

The U.S. faces Australia, ranked third globally, in the second game of its pre-Olympic schedule on Monday night. 

Listen below as Popovich and Tatum discuss loss to Nigeria: