Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich voted NBA Coach of the Year

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This doesn’t happen enough — the best coach in the game being named the NBA Coach of the year. Usually it goes to the guy who most exceeds expectations, but the best coaches almost always have insane expectations for their squads and even if they meet them they can’t blow them out of the water.

This year it goes to the best in the game — San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has been named the NBA Coach of the Year.

Popovich received 59 first place votes (out of 125 from media members) and had 380 total points, which kept him just ahead of Jeff Hornacek of Phoenix, who came in second. After that it was a big step back to Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau who was third.

This is Popovich’s third COY award. Popovich will likely shrug at this news, followed by saying something short but nice for the cameras. Then he will get back to coaching, which is what he really wants to do. In 20 years this award trophy likely will be found in a box in Popovich’s garage. Recognition like this does not drive him.

What he has done in San Antonio took years — he has built a culture and system that can plug in the right players and get them playing to their strengths. He’s built a selfless system and gotten players willing to share the rock — “great not good” is the mantra and the players buy in, moving off the ball and making the extra pass. It’s a system where when a future Hall of Famer like Tony Parker goes down and Patty Mills can step in and put up numbers. Marco Belinelli is unimpressive in some stops then comes into this system and is asked to play to his strengths shooting threes and becomes a real weapon.

Popovich is simply the best coach in the NBA right now. Hands down. No question. He led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA. He deserves this.

After the top three of Popovich, Hornacek and Thibodeau, the rest of the voting went Steve Clifford (Charlotte, 8 first place votes), Dwane Casey (Toronto, 5 first place votes), Terry Stotts (Portland, 2 first place votes), Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers, 1 first place vote), and finally the trio of Scott Brooks, Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd each got one third place vote. (Jackson’s vote comes from Warriors reporter Ric Bucher of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, Brook’s comes from Dominique Wilkins the Hawks legend and broadcaster, Kidd’s came from Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.)

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.