Mike Krzyzewski says he is done.
He came in as USA Basketball restructured following the 2004 bronze medal in Athens, and he has coached two World Championships and two Olympics. USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo says he is going to try and talk Coach K into staying, but Kobe Bryant couldn’t talk him into coming to the Lakers — it’s not easy to change his mind. Krzyzewski is done.
So who gets to go to Rio in four years as coach?
Everyone asked says one name first: Gregg Popovich.
He has the gravitas needed for this job — he is above the basketball political fray and he is former Air Force, someone who is patriotic and would take the job seriously. He can get guys to show up to play for him and get them to accept roles they might not with their club teams (Popovich would tell the guys what they can do with their egos). He also has a system that is perfect for the international game (have you watched the Spurs?) He can handle the pressure. He is the ideal fit.
The problem is he was a really good fit back in 2006 as well and he really wanted the mob, but it was passed over for Krzyzewski. According to reports it wasn’t just losing out on the job but how that happened — Colangelo promised a meeting with Popovich that never happened, then seemed to suggest Popovich didn’t want the job as badly. He did. And he’s still angry about it.
Popovich is the best choice, but Colangelo needs to swallow some pride and have an honest sit down with Popovich.
If not him, the other front runner appears to be Doc Rivers, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
Rivers also has the gravitas and respect of players to be able to come in and get players to fit a system. He was in London and could do some scouting up close of other world powers. He has been an assistant coach with Team USA before and he also would work well with the superstar expected to be at Rio in 2016 (the idea of a 23-and-under tournament is likely 2020, if even then).
Rivers tried to throw out Sixers coach and Olympic broadcaster Doug Collins, but he does not seem to be in consideration. Rick Pitino is reportedly trying to express interest in the job, but he is not really above the political fray of the game like Popovich and Rivers.
Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.
After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.
Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.
Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was not punished with an additional fine for kicking Houston Rockets G James Harden in the face on Dec. 1. Perhaps that emboldened him to kick another opponent just two days later in Phoenix Suns rookie Marquese Chriss.
While attempting a rip through move on Chriss in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game, Green could be seen kicking Chriss in the hand.
Chriss, in some obvious pain, immediately ran over to the bench and was replaced by Jared Dudley.
Meanwhile, Green didn’t even draw a foul. On the other end of the floor, P.J. Tucker was trying to fight through a screen and was called for both a personal foul and a technical foul after arguing.
It seems that there’s not much stopping Green from trying to damage opponents. He infamously missed Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals due to his extracurricular activity, his absence perhaps acting as the catalyst to swing a series in which the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There was no fine for kicking the league’s best MVP candidate in Harden, and no reaction from officials for kicking Chriss.
This came just a day after Green complained about how the league was treating him and how he should control his body.
In the last six months, Green has hit or kicked Harden, Chriss, Kyrie Irving, Allen Crabbe, and Steven Adams (twice).
Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr is a thoughtful, measured adult who made a very rational decision: He was battling debilitating back pain that was keeping him away from the Warriors, so he chose to try marijuana to try to ease that pain. It didn’t work for Kerr, but he advocated for professional sports leagues to have a more open mind toward allowing the drug to be used for pain management.
Suns’ coach Earl Watson is a thoughtful, measured adult who comes from a very different world than Kerr, and that gives him a different perspective. Watson’s story is that of a child who grew up in poverty, surrounded by violence, in Kansas City, and used basketball to pull himself out of that world.
Watson urged caution in NBA coaches endorsing the use of marijuana, speaking to Chris Haynes of ESPN.
“I think our rhetoric on it has to be very careful because you have a lot of kids where I’m from that’s reading this, and they think [marijuana use is] cool,” Watson told ESPN on Saturday after the Suns’ 138-109 loss to the Warriors. “It’s not cool. Where I’m from, you don’t get six fouls to foul out. You get three strikes. One strike leads to another. I’m just being honest with you, so you have to be very careful with your rhetoric…
“I think it would have to come from a physician — not a coach,” Watson said. “And for me, I’ve lived in that other life [of crime and drugs]. I’m from that area, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that experience of using it and doing other things with that were both illegal. And a lot of those times, those guys never make it to the NBA, they never make it to college, and somehow it leads to something else, and they never make it past 18.
“So when we really talk about it and we open up that, I call it that slippery slope. We have to be very careful on the rhetoric and how we speak on it and how we express it and explain it to the youth.”
There is no doubt that as a society, the United States is moving toward the legalization of marijuana. More and more states move that way each election, and the generational shift in attitudes toward the drug is an unstoppable trend.
How the NBA (and other professional sports leagues) adjust their rules and procedures in dealing with this will be a topic in the coming years. With that is the issue Watson brings up — the image the NBA projects on the issue. NBA players are free to drink alcohol, but it can’t impact them at work (like just about every other job), but the NBA doesn’t want to be seen as pro-drinking. It will have to find a way to walk that same line with marijuana.
Dirk Nowitzki has played in just two of the Mavericks’ last 13 games, and five games total all season. When he has played he hasn’t been his vintage self, he’s been slowed by injury. This is a 38-year-old battling a sore Achilles, and Dallas doesn’t want to see its future Hall of Famer limping off into retirement, and he is out indefinitely. They are being cautious.
But make no mistake, Nowitzki wants to play. He doesn’t see himself as done.
Here is what he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“I’m all-in. I want to play,” Nowitzki said in front of his locker after his teammates pulled off the Mavs’ most lopsided win of the season, a 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls that improved Dallas’ record to a Western Conference-worst 4-15. “This is obviously not a career-ending injury that I’ve got. It’s something that just keeps lingering unfortunately. I can hopefully get over it.
“There’s still a lot of season left. December just started. We know that there’s a lot of games coming, so hopefully sometime soon I’ll be out there and then stay out there. I don’t want to jump in and out of the lineup with soreness or fight this whole year. I’d love to be healthy and stay out there once I go….
“It’s frustrating for me,” said Nowitzki, a 19-year veteran who has missed more than 10 games in a season only once before in his career. “The whole situation is frustrating to be dealing with something I never have before in my career, so it’s tough. But once I’m out there, I don’t want the same thing to happen again that just happened last week, so I want to make sure now it’s good to go. At this stage of my career, I don’t move well anyways, so if I’m out there at 80-90 percent, I don’t think I’m a big help. I want to make sure my body’s responding the right way and we’ll go from there.”
At this point, Dallas has dug too deep a hole to climb back up and make the playoffs, but Nowitzki doesn’t want the Kobe Bryant send-off tour. When he returns, Dallas will get better.
Watch Nowitzki get in a sweat before a game now — even when he is not playing he puts in a thorough workout — and you see a model for how other players should take both their craft and conditioning more seriously. He is meticulous about the details but is going to get in his work. The problem for him is with an Achilles it’s going to be about rest. He can get treatments, but time is his biggest ally.
Being patient sucks. But that’s where we are with getting to see Nowitzki play again.