Popovich, Rivers

Who should be the next Team USA coach? Popovich? Rivers?


Mike Krzyzewski has said this will be his last Olympics as the head coach of Team USA. Personally, I wouldn’t turn down a free trip to Rio but Krzyzewski apparently wants out. You can bet USA Basketball President Jerry Colangelo will try to talk him out of leaving, and sometimes those pitches work.

But if it doesn’t, who should be the next Team USA head coach?

There are serious fences to mend, but Gregg Popovich is the clear best choice. He’s respected by players, he has a system that fits the international game (look at the Spurs roster) and most of all he has the gravitas needed to coach a team with that many stars and egos. He’s the perfect fit. But there is real friction between him and Colangelo and Krzyzewski so it may not happen. Because adults will act like 6-year-olds with grudges.

If not Pops, Adrian Wojnarowski makes a pitch at Yahoo Sports that Celtics coach (and NBC Olympic broadcaster) Doc Rivers should be next up.

He’s come to London to work in the studio for NBC Sports on Olympic basketball, but his trip’s been an excuse to grab a notebook and visit Spain and Brazil and Argentina practices. He has a resumé with USA Basketball, including one job as a gold-medal assistant in the Goodwill Games. USA Basketball will be searching for a national team coach in 2016, and however the structure of Olympic basketball changes, Rivers is an ideal candidate….

He’s the best coach for the traditional Olympic format of NBA stars, or the proposed under-23 change that could include his son, Austin Rivers…. “To represent your country is the absolute best honor,” Rivers said, “and if you ever get the opportunity, it would be hard to turn down.”

It takes a special personality to be the coach of Team USA. It starts with having someone in that seat that players respect and will come to play for. Put bluntly, Team USA’s roster isn’t as deep if Vinny Del Negro is coaching. Then you need a coach that is above the petty politics of the sport, a guy who can simply walk in and command the locker room and get the best players in the world to agree to take on smaller roles and be part of a team not the star.

That’s a small list of guys. Rivers is on it. Popovich is on it. While there are other great college coaches I’m not sure any of them have the gravitas to get a buy in from players the way Krzyzewski does. Then there are great coaches like Phil Jackson who have the gravitas but whose style — let the team learn over time from their own mistakes — are a poor fit with the condensed Team USA schedule.

It will be interesting to see who is next. The USA has redeemed its place atop the world’s basketball pecking order, but not many guys are set to keep it there.

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Can Thunder win 60 games?

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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are healthy — just how good will the Thunder be?

The bold prediction in this PBT Extra preview with Jenna Corrado is that the Thunder will win 60 games, something they have not yet done. I wouldn’t bet on them hitting that number — with a new coach, and them making sure Durant and Westbrook get rest coming off injuries, plus the fact they’re in the deep West, that number may be high.

I think they have a better chance to come out of the West than win 60 games. I think they have a good shot to come out of the West.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”