Also this week: Q&A with newest Lakers big man Roy Hibbert and remembering a member of the Turner Sports family
POSTED: Jul 27, 2015 7:03 PM ET
It's a Spurs Summer
An all-access look at the championship game of the Samsung Las Vegas NBA Summer League, as the San Antonio Spurs, led by Spurs Assistant/Summer League Head Coach Becky Hammon, defeated the Phoenix Suns.
So, is she ready?
One must be careful not to get caught up in the tide when discussing Becky Hammon's successful run as coach of the Spurs' Summer League team in Las Vegas, and what it portends for her future as a coach. First, she's not campaigning for a gig, and when others start speaking for someone, trouble is not usually far behind. Agendas are not part of Hammon's makeup, and while she knows that it's important that she's the first woman to be seriously considered by the NBA's cognoscenti for a head coach job, she's made it clear she wants to be judged on her merits alone.
Second, there are a lot of NBA assistant coaches who've been patiently waiting their turn for a head coaching position for a long time. Guys like Memphis' Elston Turner, who's been an assistant coach in the league for 18 years; Miami's Dave Fizdale (12 years, the last seven with the Heat) and Charlotte's Patrick Ewing (10 years). It's not fair to them to anoint Hammon as the next coach in waiting, nor is it fair to criticize teams that may hire someone other than Hammon in the next year or two to run their squad.
Third, it's not a criticism of her abilities to say that after just one year as an assistant coach -- even in San Antonio, in Gregg Popovich's shop -- that Hammon, like any young coach, is not yet done developing her voice or her beliefs, and while she has great potential, she may not be ready this morning to take over an NBA team.
Hammon, Spurs Win NBA Summer League Championship
Becky Hammon becomes the first woman to win the NBA Summer League Championship.
Hammon's job with the Spurs in Vegas was first-rate, and the 38 year old was in her element in driving San Antonio's rookies and young vets to the Samsung title. She was clear-eyed and focused, she designed some really good looks out of timeouts, and the Spurs' young players got better and better as the tournament went on. She yelled at the refs and demanded her players "bring the juice," and they responded.
For those of you who moan that this is not a big deal, that this is PC run amok, well, Hillary Clinton didn't Tweet congratulations to then-Kings coach Mike Malone when he shepherded his team to the 2014 Vegas title. Don't be obstinate. A woman coaching men trying to make an NBA team is a big deal. It does not necessarily follow that a Summer League coach becomes a head coach down the road -- let's be real, a lot of teams are very happy when their teams lose in the Summer League, so they and their players can get the hell out of Vegas. But Hammon displayed many of the traits that a successful coach needs.
"I think she has the ability to be a head coach in the NBA but there are only 30 such jobs and it is extremely competitive to get one no matter if you are male or female," said Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss, one of the highest-ranking female executives in sports, via text Sunday.
"If that is her desire I encourage her to follow that path," Buss said. "Being a woman is not a reason to stop. Continue doing outstanding work and the opportunity will come."
As far as the historical significance ... well, let Pop explain it.
"It's a societal sort of thing," he said last week on the "Mr. T and Ratto" Podcast out of San Francisco's KNBR AM last week (Mr. T being former NBA player Tom Tolbert; Ratto being longtime Bay Area columnist and current CSN Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto).
"In America, we are great at sticking our heads in the sand and being behind the rest of the world in a whole lot of areas," Popovich continued. "We think we are this big democratic, fair place. But you look at our world now, whether it's gender-wise or racially or religiously, there's all kinds of stuff going on that is not the way it's supposed to be.
"I think a female coaching a team these days has got a lot to do with the people on the teams maturing as individuals, as members of a society understanding that it's not about any of those things. It's about talent. It's about respect. And I think people like Becky, over time, who gain respect and people understand that this is possible, it can happen. Just like women getting the vote. How many years did that take? It's ridiculous when you think about how many decades and centuries in some cases (it took) before change was made.
GameTime: The Impact of Becky Hammon
The crew talk about the impact of Becky Hammon on the San Antonio Spurs and the entire NBA.
"But I think since 2000 changes have been pretty damn lacking in a lot of ways. I think people are fed up with it, injustice, and people not respecting other people's space and who they are. So I think it's a step in the right direction."
There are all manner of issues that would surround Hammon getting an opportunity down the road. Most are in her favor, though there would no doubt be questions both she and the team that hires her would have to sort through first:
She obviously can handle the Xs and Os. The most important thing the Spurs have done by hiring Hammon and putting her into the potential head coaching mix is lay fallow the notion that Hammon's years as a star WNBA player somehow weren't the same as an NBA player's experiences. The mechanics of a pick-and-roll are the same when run by Briann January and Tamika Catchings as when run by John Wall and Marcin Gortat.
So, when Popovich brought Hammon in during her final season as a WNBA player, in 2013, as she rehabbed a knee injury, she talked about basketball with Popovich and President of Sports Franchises and General Manager R.C. Buford. And her knowledge about the game was clear.
But that doesn't mean she was a yes woman.
"If she literally spoke the exact language, Pop probably wouldn't have brought her in," Buford said by phone Saturday. "She had her own ideas. She knew how to handle herself, and as Pop said, she knew when to speak and when to shut up. You have to have both to be successful."
But knowing the game is obviously not enough.
Hammon was not one of Popovich's top three assistants last season in San Antonio -- they were Jim Boylen (who has since taken the top assistant's job in Chicago with Fred Hoiberg), Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina. Those three assistants sat alongside Popovich; NBA teams can have up to three assistants on the bench. They can have any number of assistants sit behind the bench, which is where Hammon sat during the season.
"I'm not even sure she handles game scouts yet," one general manager said Sunday, referring to the traditional role almost all assistant coaches have -- writing the scouting report for an upcoming opponent, which details that team's strengths and weaknesses, favorite plays, etc. Traditionally, the scouts are divided up among the assistants during the season.
The experience gap is something Hammon will no doubt close quickly. But, today, it's still there.
But, she's as experienced as, say, Steve Kerr, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Danny Ainge. The Warriors hired Jackson out of the TV booth in 2011 despite his never having had previous coaching experience at any level, and after three seasons, they fired him and replaced him with Kerr, who also came out of the TV booth and also didn't have any previous coaching experience. The Suns hired Ainge as coach in 1996, just a year after he'd retired as a player. And the Nets hired Kidd just days after he officially retired as a player in 2013, after 19 seasons. None of them had ever coached at any level.
"I believed I could do the job," Ainge, now the Celtics' president of basketball operations, said by phone Friday. "I believed it would be hard. But I believed I could do it. I was ready to take a challenge. I was excited about the opportunity. All of us need an opportunity, whether you're a player, or a coach, or in business. People who have had success, somewhere along the line, someone gave them an opportunity."
Coaching hires tend to be cyclical. For a long time, coaches linked to Howard Garfinkel's legendary Five Star Camp coaching/counseling tree held sway. Chuck Daly, Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello, Brendan Malone, Brian Hill, Ron Rothstein and Lawrence Frank all ultimately got NBA coach jobs, as did Rick Pitino and John Calipari after star turns in college.
Former players were all the rage in the 90s; teams wanted coaches who could relate better to the ups and downs of their players. John Lucas, Mike Dunleavy, Dan Issel, Doc Rivers and Rudy Tomjanovich all got calls.
The former video guys have been in vogue lately: Erik Spoelstra, Mike Budenholzer, Mike Malone and Frank Vogel all got their starts in windowless rooms, doing 72-hour shifts making cutups and packages for coaches who didn't want excuses, only results. And now we're back to former players.
"Guys like Doc Rivers, or Derek Fisher, or Jeff Hornacek, I don't think it's a stretch to think they'd be successful," Ainge said. "It wasn't a stretch to think Brad (Stevens) would be a success, after taking Butler to two straight Final Fours. In Becky's case, I don't know her. But in her case, given the people that do know her, I don't know why it would be a stretch. I don't know why a woman couldn't be a successful head coach. It sounds like someone will give her an opportunity somewhere down the road."
Ainge got his shot, in part, because of his relationship with former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo.
"It took Jerry Colangelo, who I knew, and played with for two years, and negotiated a contract with him, we knew each other. I don't think it was a stretch from his perspective," Ainge said. "It's just going to take somebody who knows Becky."
After Rivers left Boston in 2013 to coach the Clippers, Ainge didn't wait long before hiring Stevens. The interview process confirmed what Ainge already thought, but even though Stevens was highly regarded in college basketball, he needed someone to believe he could make the transition to the pros.
"It happened pretty fast," Ainge said. "I think it was probably the first training camp, our first training camp, when you knew he just really knows what he's doing. He's got such humility. He knows that if he does make a mistake or he can do something better, he's the first one to recognize it. He looks at life and approaches it as what can I do to make us better, and make that person and that player better? I got to know Brad and there never was any concern. I guess that's why I gave him a six-year contract. I never did have any concern. It had more to do with who he was."
Someone will have to likewise believe in Hammon.
She's likeable. I am reminded of the scene at the end of "Ocean's Thirteen," when Willy Bank (Al Pacino) confronts Danny Ocean (George Clooney) after Ocean's gang has helped clean out Bank's casino, to the tune of half a billion dollars.
"I know people -- highly invested in my survival -- and they are people who really know how to hurt, in ways you can't even imagine," Bank says.
"Well, I know all the guys that you'd hire to come after me," Ocean says. "They like me better than you."
Don't underestimate this. Likeability is a big deal. People, for example, like Rivers. They like Kerr. It's not the most important weapon in a coach's quiver, but if you have a choice of being with two people for nine or 10 months, in close quarters, often disagreeing about strategies or playing rotations, chances are most people would rather spend that time with the agreeable person rather than the disagreeable one. It has nothing to do with Hammon's coaching chops to say she's a very pleasant person to be around. She's got "it." She has that incredible, rare gift of being able to talk to just about everyone where they are.
"Everyone likes her because most were a fan of hers before she started coaching and respected her game, respects her input," Spurs guard Danny Green said Sunday. "And she's a player's coach."
She's in the perfect place. If any team can afford to be bold and think outside the box, it's San Antonio. Five championships since 1999 build up an awful lot of capital, and Popovich and Buford are as respected as any coach-GM tandem as has ever been around. But every franchise isn't run as, let's say, efficiently as the Spurs run theirs. If Hammon were to leave San Antonio for a coaching opportunity elsewhere, she could be walking into a very different situation.
"Reality...is that most coaching vacancies are with bad teams," a former GM texted Sunday, "and those circumstances would be dramatically different as to level of player, professionalism of player, support of management, etc. The biggest question is how would she deal with real life scenarios."
San Antonio works because there is no space between Popovich and Buford. Players can't go to the GM if they don't like what the coach is doing, and they certainly can't get an audience with owner Peter Holt -- who would tell them, politely, that they're in the wrong office. Other franchises don't work that way. Office politics could be as difficult for Hammon as they are for most people. A lot of smart people haven't been able to navigate them.
But, Hammon played professionally for 16 years. She certainly had her share of run-ins with players and coaches and opponents and referees in the WNBA, and the guess is most of that experience is transferable. But if she got a head coaching gig, yes, she'd have to do something that no other woman has ever had to do -- she would, at some point, have to cuss out a zillionaire, highly Q rated, multi-time All-Star for something or other. And none of those zillionaires has ever been cussed out in that setting by a woman coach. It would, simply, be a new and different dynamic. There is nothing wrong with newness. People adapt in their lives every day. Would there be something so tragic about a coach and a player maybe not screaming at each other in a locker room? Or, for that matter, a woman coach screaming at a male player if it was warranted?
In that sense, Hammon would be right at home, having blazed the trail she has already. One does not get the sense that Hammon, who was undrafted coming out of Colorado State yet wound up being named one of the top 15 players in WNBA history, is a shrinking violet.
And there is no rush. This isn't a race. Becky Hammon will, and should, continue her apprenticeship with the Spurs next season, a young and talented coach who may well break the NBA's glass ceiling in short fashion, knowing the task ahead and the stakes that will be at hand when she does so.
"Even though you may come in and show you can do the job, and get respect from the players," Ainge said, "every day, you have to prove it again, even though you may get it on day one."
When She Shall Die...
Take Her and Cut Her into Little Stars,
And She Will Make the Face of Heaven So Fine
That All the World Will Be in Love with Night,
And Pay No Worship to the Garish Sun.
The work calls, and we go.
It is the business we have chosen. We do not ask for or expect sympathy, because we cover sports for a living. But the work still requires us to leave our families, and our homes, often for long stretches. And yet, in doing so, we sometimes find another family -- those we work with, week after week, in TV trucks and studios. We laugh and cry and cuss with them, and often spend more time with them than with those who wait for us at home, and soon, the two families are one and the same to us.
Joy Swoyer Kosisky was part of our Turner family, taken from us all too soon at 43 on July 15, a week after being in a car accident in Georgia. She was going to join us the next day in Las Vegas to cover the Summer League. She was aptly named -- always smiling and pleasant, an award-winning technical director who'd been with CNN and Turner since 2005, one of the dozens of people who come in early and stay late to make sure that the game broadcasts go off without a hitch, that the shots are right, that the graphics are accurate. She worked all of Turner's big events, and in a business where people are often quick to cut you down, no one had a bad word to say about her.
It would be dishonest, though, to say that I knew her as well as the people that worked closest with her -- in those trucks and studios. And so, I thought the best way to honor her memory was to let some of them, in their own words, express what Joy meant to them.
Senior Graphics Operator
Turner Studios/NBA TV
Joy was my coworker, my friend, my road dog!
Joy and I were two of the few women, on the technical side, who traveled for NBA TV; therefore, we spent countless hours together over the last 6-7 years.
We've had many adventures, as recently as being stuck in traffic for 2 hours trying to get back to Oakland from San Francisco during the NBA Finals. We spent that time talking about boys and life, and I entertained her by singing every song that came on the radio ... She was fascinated by the songs I knew. "Why do you know the words to American Pie?"
There are so many stories, so many adventures, vacations, mishaps, shared lives, love, advice ... Who knew a true friendship would have forged on September 2, 2008 when we started NBA TV together.
She met some of my family in Oakland during the Finals this year and left a lasting impression on them. They too are devastated.
My heart is broken, and I will miss my friend. Moreover, NBA TV has lost a large cog in the wheel that is NBA TV.
All my love, Nina.
Director, NBA TV
Joy was more than a co-worker. She was a treasured friend. As a co-worker, Joy possessed a quiet yet strong demeanor as well as being very passionate about her career. As a friend, Joy was caring, dependable, charismatic, strong and giving.
It still seems surreal that I won't be able to look to my right in the control room or on remote and see her focused and determined work ethic in action. Even more surreal is that I won't share dinner with her after a long day in the truck or catch a show and dinner with her while in Atlanta. I will miss my co-worker, but even more so my friend.
Rest well, Joy.
Associate Director, NBA TV
Joy and I met through work, but we became friends because she was a sweet, caring person. A few of the ladies we work with have formed a bond over the years. Our friendships, our sisterhood has been one of the most unexpected benefits of my time at Turner Sports. We uplift one another and Joy was one of my biggest cheerleaders as I began to grow as a director. We've laughed, cried, worked and played together.
A while back after I did something for her, something so small I can't even recall what, she said to me "Nia, you are such a good friend to us all. We are so lucky to have you." I'll never forget that. I hope that Joy knew we all felt the same way about her. All of us: Alisa, Danielle, Kat, Kelsie, Miki, Nina, Sharon, Towanda and I were so very fortunate to have had YOU as our friend Joy. We will miss you my friend.
Senior Associate Director, NBA TV
Joy was the most positive person in our control room and always there to listen when times were tough. I will miss her calling me "Sunshine", a nickname given to me by her because of my passion for heavy rock music.
No matter how stressed or down I would be, Joy's voice resonated happiness within me. I will miss Joy and my sunshine.
Director, NBA TV
Webster's definition of joy is the feeling of happiness. Our co-worker was just that in every aspect of her life and she brought us all happiness. Joy was exceptional in her craft as a Technical Director, she would be that person that went the extra mile to make sure our shows were the very best! She would always challenge herself whether it was in the studio or even better when she got the opportunity to go on the road that brought her joy. As a true friend it was always fun to do something away from work, going to a Hawks game, a trip out in San Diego or her first trip to In N Out Burger (she is a vegetarian). Joy always loved to go have a photo taken when she was working an event. The last photo we took together was center court during the NBA Finals and ironically enough it was at Oracle Arena, the home of this year's champions and our champion, Joy.
Camera Operator, Turner Studios
The Joy that I knew and loved would be upset that I was taking the time to write this. She wouldn't understand what all of the fuss was about and would be telling everyone to enjoy their lives and don't worry about her. She was as selfless as she was beautiful. I often criticized her for being "too nice" and no matter how much people may have deserved it, I could never get her to be mean or difficult just once. Joy just didn't have it in her, it wasn't in her spirit.
Knowing Joy was a blessing but having her as a friend was a gift that I will cherish forever. I will always remember taking her to get her first pedicure and manicure and the way her eyes lit up when she said "this is awesome!", being with her on her first cruise, and watching her face when she enjoyed a slice of key lime red velvet cake.
So often we get caught up in our work and don't take the time to get to know the people on our team. I'm so glad this wasn't the case with us. Joy, thank you for being you. My life has been enriched having you in it. I love you.
Rest peacefully beautiful.
Joy will be buried on Tuesday in Pennsylvania. Our deepest sympathies go to her family and friends. She will be missed.
Sacramento's breathing, and you've got him believing. From Usman Amin:
Kings fan here, a lot of talk about the trade with Philly and how it was a bad trade (not a great trade for the kings in my opinion as well). But putting that aside, I'd love an honest assessment of the Kings roster after all the offseason moves; seems like all the analysts are extremely down on the Kings. I believe we have a solid team now that can compete for a 7 or 8 seed...thoughts?
Vivek Ranadive Talks Kings
Vivek Ranadive joins NBA TV to talk about the current state of the Sacramento Kings.
DA: I guess it depends on how one defines "compete," Usman. Sac may be able to hang around for a while, maybe past the All-Star break, if Rajon Rondo can get back to something resembling his better form. But, can the Kings get to March and April without being consumed by dysfunction? And even if they can, how much energy will they have to use throughout the season to keep their craft afloat? Plus, in all candor, you have no idea what cockamamie idea Vivek Ranadive is going to come up with next. There just isn't enough stability inside that organization yet (as evidenced by the report on Sunday that new GM Vlade Divac is getting rid of respected analytics guru Dean Oliver) to feel at all confident about their playoff chances in the west. There are six teams -- Golden State, San Antonio, the Clippers, Memphis, Houston and Oklahoma City -- that have to be considered locks, if they aren't destroyed by injuries as the Thunder were last season. That leaves two spots. Could the Kings beat out the likes of the Suns, Pelicans, Mavericks and Lakers, or Utah or Minnesota, with their rapidly growing young talent bases, for the seventh or eighth spot? It would take a lot.
Your replays have become tiresome. Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance. From Lisa Summers:
Is anything being considered to speed up the reviews at the end of games?
Last season especially during playoffs, the games stalled even worse than usual & part of the problem seems to be that the refs have to go review footage. During playoff games, can't there be a unit dedicated to just reviewing film quickly - it could even be other referees.
DA: The league experimented with "off-site" video review during the Vegas Summer League (really, it was just a locker room in the back of the buildings) to try and simulate how replays could be reviewed and decisions made by its league Replay Center in New Jersey during the regular season. At present, the Replay Center only lines up the replays for the officials on site; the referees at the games make the final decisions on reviewable matters. I think the league should take over that responsibility, just as the NHL and Major League Baseball have done. Hockey in particular has done an excellent job of having its replay officials in New York make quick decisions that don't interfere with the flow of the game.
A Rose City by Any Other Name. From Jack McCleary:
I would like to know what you think about the Portland situation and what they're trying to accomplish.
Terry Stotts On Blazers
Portland head coach Terry Stotts joins GameTime to talk Blazers basketball.
DA: The Blazers were in a tough position, Jack. Even if they had kept LaMarcus Aldridge (and if he had stayed, maybe Wes Matthews would have as well), I still don't think they were good enough to challenge the top teams in the West in the playoffs. I think Neil Olshey did as much as he could with the cards he was dealt, but there's no way to sugarcoat losing three starters to free agency. Obviously Portland will struggle to make the playoffs next season, but the Blazers will have a ridiculous amount of cap room in the summer of 2016. Even if they can't sign difference-making free agents, they'll be the go-to team for everyone that needs to dump a high-priced player. They should be able to take advantage of that to quickly rebuild around Damian Lillard.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and likely Twitter handles for the Milwaukee Lion to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it!
$5,300,000 -- Settlement amount between the National Basketball Players Association and the state of Tennessee, according to the Sports Business Daily. The deal settles a civil suit filed by the players against the state last year concerning the "jock tax" that has been levied on NBA players who have played games in Memphis against the Grizzlies since 2009. The revenue went to the Grizzlies and to the Memphis Predators of the NHL, whose players were also subject to the jock taxes. The NHL Players Association also settled with the state earlier this year. The tax will be repealed in 2016 after the basketball and hockey unions lobbied lawmakers to end the practice.
$6.99 -- Price for a la carte, single-game purchases of NBA games next season on one's computer or mobile device. The league announced the new menu last week. Fans can still pay $199.99 for the regular League Pass subscription for all games, available on DirecTV and other cable systems as well as other platforms, or $119.99 for a single team pass that features all of the games of one team.
51 -- Career NBA games played by rising second-year guard Shabazz Napier, traded by the Heat Sunday to the Orlando Magic for a future first-round pick. Napier was, famously, the preferred first-round pick in 2014 for Miami of LeBron James, and the Heat indeed acquired Napier from Charlotte after the Hornets took him with the 24th pick overall last year. In Orlando, Napier will back up Elfrid Payton.
1) You see: there are alternatives to public financing for brand new arenas. I'm sure the Miller Family would like a shiny new bauble filled to the brim with luxury suites, but they're going to make what they have better.
2) Everyone 40 and older approves of this message.
3) Much has been written about Canada's emerging national program, and that nation's hopes of winning a medal by the 2020 Summer Olympics. They look right on track after a strong showing by the men and women at last week's Pan Am Games.
4) Cardale Jones? He gets it. It never ceases to amaze me when people tell me to "stick to sports" or "stick to basketball" or "nobody cares about" whatever on my Twitter account. No, I will not stop talking about whatever the hell I feel like talking about on my account. People who don't like it are free to unfollow, like, forever.
5) This is an incredible story about a travel subculture far removed from just about everyone's eyes -- including those who travel for a living.
6) We continue to get great submissions for the Guest Fan Morning Tipper, which will likely run on Aug. 31 while I'm on vacation. (We have some other really cool Guest Tippers we're working on as well. Details coming soon.) Remember: I will pick one fan's e-mail detailing his or her love for the NBA game, and why, and how it's manifest itself over the years. You can still send submissions to email@example.com. I read them all. Promise. And thanks.
1) In an era where "Keeping it 100" became such a cliché, Stephen Jackson really did, but never in a way that was demeaning either to him or you. Doesn't mean he or you were always right, but he was a truly accessible person in all ways. He never shied away from a subject, and never stammered or stuttered. He told you exactly what he thought, even when he knew he'd get in trouble for doing so. And he had a very solid NBA career for someone who was a late second-round pick in 1997, and bounced around leagues in Australia and Venezuela for a couple of years before first sticking with the Nets -- and then, famously, Gregg Popovich's Spurs for two tours. The first, in which Jackson was among the best players on the floor in the 2003 Finals, was wildly successful; the second, which lasted little more than a year and ended with San Antonio waiving Jack just before the 2013 playoffs when he and Pop couldn't agree on a proper role for him, wasn't so good. But even that didn't degenerate into the usual anonymous histrionics: both acknowledged they had problems with the other's point of view, agreed to disagree, and moved on, like grown men should. Jackson's participation in the Malice at the Palace in 2004 scarred his career, and he had to own it. But he never apologized for going into the stands to help his teammate, Metta World Peace, who was fighting Pistons fans. Right or wrong, Jack had your back at all times. Respect for DaTrillStack, who announced his retirement last week.
2) If the league wants to go to determining playoff spots solely by record, eliminating the automatic top four status each of the conference's division winners have previously received, fine. But if that's the plan going forward, there's no need to have divisions any more. And that would necessarily impact scheduling. The NBA schedule gives teams four games against each of their four division opponents. But if there are no divisions, there would be implications. For example: do you think the Pacers or Bucks or Pistons want to entertain the thought of having to give up even one of what I'm sure are two home sellouts per year when the Cavaliers and LeBron James come to town? (Ditto for the Suns or Kings out west when the Lakers or Clippers or Warriors are in town.) Maybe the league keeps the divisions intact for that reason, but again: if division results don't help a team any going forward, there's no point in having them.
4) The Hickory unis are cool and all, and no problem with Indy going retro next season to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Hoosiers." But I wish the Pacers would have also included Oscar Robertson's Crispus Attucks High School, which was the first all-black high school to win an Indiana state championship, in 1955. They were Hoosiers, too; it's just that no one made a movie about them.
5) So, basically, the 80s -- the decade of my formation as an adult, when I made almost all of my adult friends, and in whose times I am stuck in mentally -- and the people I admired and enjoyed during those years -- were, in retrospect, horrible (wow, is this NSFW), and stunk. Et tu, Winnie?
6) Chances are there will not be a Fresno State 2003 football team reunion photo any time soon.
Was it just two years ago that the Indiana Pacers were the next big thing -- a team that took pride in stifling opposing offenses, that had an emerging superstar in Paul George, that was coached by a former assistant whom every player seemed to love? And which was anchored by a defensive force in Roy Hibbert, the 7-foot-2 center that smothered halfcourt attacks before they reached the rim and drove the SuperFriends crazy?
It seems longer ago, now, but the Pacers of George and Hibbert and David West and Lance Stephenson did indeed take Miami to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals in 2013. The following 24 months have been the stuff of nightmares in Indy, with George breaking his leg, Stephenson wearing out his welcome and Larry Bird running out of patience -- particularly with the 28-year-old Hibbert, his two-time All-Star.
Hibbert fell out of favor as his offensive game inexplicably became passive and altogether ineffective. He was never a great post player, but he became a non-entity in the playoffs and for long stretches during the season, even as he made the NBA's second team All-Defense squad in 2013-14. And the Pacers transitioned to a perimeter-oriented team last season while George spent most of the year rehabbing. And like most other teams, Bird thinks the Pacers' future is to play small, with George seeing time at power forward next season.
Bird also took the unusual (for him) step of publicly saying at his postseason news conference that he didn't see as big a role for Hibbert next season. Nonetheless, Hibbert opted in for the final ($15 million) year of his contract, and the Pacers made their move -- trading him to the Lakers on July 9 in what was, essentially, a salary dump. Hibbert will be of immediate help to the Lakers, who finished 29th last season in both points allowed and defensive rating, by simply standing upright. He has some familiarity with the team, having worked out in previous offseasons with Hall of Famer and Lakers icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But the Lakers aren't what they once were. Hibbert feels their pain.
Me: Are you relieved?
Roy Hibbert: I would say that I'm happy to start the next journey in my career. I am happy to be in this situation, but I'm also happy to be starting something new.
Me: Did you think it was salvageable in Indy after the season?
RH: I mean, I knew after talking to my agent, more than likely I was going to be moved. And I was okay with that. I understood. It's a business, and sometimes things can change. I didn't know if I was going to get traded per se, so I was prepared to go back to Indy. So I had prepared myself.
Me: Were you surprised that Larry was so pointed in his assessment of the season and your role going forward -- which was to say, a much smaller role?
RH: Larry says what's on his mind. He doesn't hold his tongue. Things happen. Like I said, I enjoyed my time there in Indy. You just have gotta move on, get ready for the next chapter...Larry was very up front with me. He said before the press conference that I can't promise you minutes next year, and they wanted to go in a different direction. So it wasn't like what happened came out of nowhere, what he said. I'll always say that Larry changed my life. I was on the phone with my agent in the office during the (2009) Draft process and Larry said 'If Roy's there at 17, we'll take him.' That meant a lot to me. I know that things change and the NBA is "What have you done for me lately?", but I could never say a bad thing about Larry or the Pacers' organization.
Me: What did it mean to you to have David West have your back so publicly?
RH: It meant a lot. We talked all the time throughout the year. I kind of took a step back and didn't read the media. After the year I took the usual month off. And obviously seeing what he said, we talked. I won't go into great detail about what we talked about, but it felt good. We've talked a lot about the business side of the NBA. I know why he said it, and I know why Larry said what he had to say.
Me: Were the Lakers a team that was on your radar?
RH: I had no control. My agent said there were certain teams I could possibly go to. I won't name those teams for a reason. When I talked to my wife, we decided to live in L.A. for the summer (before the deal), and it happens to be that was the team I got traded to. So I'm pretty happy.
Me: You've got a place out in L.A. already, I thought.
RH: Just for the summer. Most of the time I'm in Indy working out. So this is the first summer I actually trained somewhere else besides where I was during the lockout. It seems to be pretty good. I'm really lucky to be in this situation.
Me: I know you add different things to your workouts -- one year you were doing a lot of martial arts. Are you adding anything new this summer?
RH: [David] West told me [Lakers coach Byron Scott's] workouts are very tough. So I'm getting myself in the best condition I can be in. So I've been doing that. I know the NBA is getting a lot faster after Golden State won the championship. So I trimmed down a little bit so I can run up and down a little more. I'm not as big as I was in the past.
Me: You know the NBA is going toward small ball. So how do you not only stay on the court, but remain in a position where you can be a dominant player like you were a couple of years ago?
Barkley on Hibbert to Lakers
Charles Barkley joins GameTime to discuss the Lakers adding center Roy Hibbert.
RH: I'm just going to focus on the defense. I know I said it before, but it's important to realize I can possibly change the game. When I met with Mitch [Kupchak] and Scott, we came together and we talked about the expectations and what they wanted from me and how I could affect the game. We had a real good talk. I told them, I want to be like that [Andrew] Bogut-type guy, the defensive guy, because we have a lot of guys who can score already on this team. I'm at the point where I want to win a championship, and getting to play with Kobe, it's an amazing opportunity for me. I wanted to play with a shooting guard or a small forward like Paul [George], who was athletic and can take over games offensively. And I wanted to play for a coach who actually played in the league if I had my own choice. Not to say that Frank [Vogel] wasn't great. I had some real good times with Frank and we played well. But I told my agent that I possibly wanted to play for a coach that played in the league.
Me: Why is that important to you?
RH: Just playing for [Brian] Shaw (the Pacers' former associate head coach under Vogel), he went through the things that a player has gone through. He had a lot of real good insight to help myself, my game, with other guys on the court. Because he went through those things. And when you had two sets of four games in five nights, he was real with us. He would say, 'if I'm tired, you're tired.' It's not a huge thing, but I'm really lucky to be in this position.
Me: I'm sure, working out with Kareem over the last couple of years, you know the history of the Lakers' big men. Is it empowering or terrifying to be the next in that long line?
RH: I'm going to be realistic. I've made promises before and sometimes they didn't pan out. So I'm going to be optimistic. I'm going to work hard and I'm going to try to make sure I'm a success. I didn't always play up to my capabilities before. I look forward to a fresh start and be able to change what people think of me.
Me: You seem to take things to heart and internalize things. How do you keep things from getting to you in the future and affect your play?
RH: Oh, man. I'm going to have to be mentally strong. As I get older, I'm able to handle things differently. I've said things in the past to the media that wasn't the best thing to say at the time. Obviously it's a work in progress, and I'm looking forward to changing that. I've got to be smarter. The Lakers wanted me and they talked about what they need from me and what they want from me, and wanted me to get back playing to the way I played before. It's really encouraging.
Me: What do you think it's going to be like playing with Kobe?
RH: I mean, just playing against him. I grew up watching him and Shaq playing. Obviously, I want to win a championship, and he has five already. When I started, I met with Coach [Scott] and Mitch, and they said they wanted me to help the young guys along. But I said I'm going to learn from Kobe as well. I don't care what people say about Kobe, how he is. I feel like when you're one of the best players in the world, there are certain expectations that come with playing with him. I'm up for that challenge. I want to win. I want to work with him. And I'm so excited to be in that position.
"The convergence of fame and wealth is never an easy concoction. We tried as best possible to make an environment that could be conducive to success for Ty and the team. We had a lot of well-documented issues, and it's a failure on all ends, but I'm hopeful both parties are on to bigger and better things."
-- Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly, after Denver completed its trade last Monday to send guard Ty Lawson to the Rockets for four players including guard Pablo Prigioni, whom the Nuggets waived. Prigioni agreed to a deal with the Clippers on Wednesday after clearing waivers.
"When I leave outta the crib every day, people always ask me, 'What's up, A.I.?' And I tell them the same thing 99.9 percent of the time. I tell them, 'The same fight. Different round.' And that's what it is, you know?"
-- Allen Iverson, during his speech at the National Basketball Players Association's Players Awards in Las Vegas last week. Iverson was given the Game Changer Award by his former peers at the ceremony, the first in which players selected award recipients rather than the media. Players also voted James Harden MVP. Perhaps some of the Warriors fans who said I was biased and stupid for picking Harden over Stephen Curry can forward some of their vitriol to the players who also voted for Harden.
"I was like, 'Welp, that was crazy. At least now you know how much I love you. I ran through LAX like an insane person for you, bro. Let us never speak of it again.'"
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