Getty Images

Jerry Colangelo to step down as president of USA Basketball

1 Comment

There will be a complete changing of the guard at the top of USA basketball heading into the next World Cup.

Gone is Mike Krzyzewski as coach, replaced by the most logical next in line, Gregg Popovich (who spent a lot of time with Team USA in the run-up to the Rio Olympics this summer).

Now Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball Chairman who orchestrated a rebuild of its structure, is stepping down and will not seek a third term, it was announced Thursday. Colangelo will continue as the Managing Director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team — meaning he will be hands on in selecting that team — but he will back away from other levels of the organization.

“Given the coaching change and the challenge of assembling a group of players for FIBA’s new competition schedule, this is a good time to devote my full attention to the Men’s National Team,” Colangelo said in a statement. “As Chairman of USA Basketball, I’m proud of what our teams at all levels have accomplished and how our players have embraced the responsibility of representing their country.  I look forward to working with the next Chairman to ensure that we continue to honor and build on USA Basketball’s rich tradition.”

A new Chairman will be elected by the USA Basketball Board of Directors at its meeting Nov. 14. We already know who is in line for the position, and my guess is General Martin Dempsey will pass the USA Basketball background check.

Colangelo took over in 2004 after the USA won bronze in Athens and didn’t look good doing it. Beyond just recruit top players to the senior men’s team, he set out to rework the structure of USA Basketball and have top players competing for their country — and wanting that honor — at a young age. The other key was to get all these teams playing the same system and style.

It was a prestige honor before, but once (Colangelo and Krzyzewski) came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic,” Kyrie Irving told NBCSports.com this summer after a Team USA practice. “Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country….

“I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against).”

Irving was part of the USA team that won gold in Rio this summer. That Rio medal showed how Colangelo had changed USA basketball — in 2004 a lot of top players pulled out of going to Athens (both over security concerns and most of them couldn’t stand coach Larry Brown) and there was no structure of good players in the system to step up and take their place. The team was just slapped together, and they hoped for the best. The got bronze. In 2016 a lot of top players pulled out of the Rio Olympics (injuries, Zika virus, and other concerns) but now there was a structure in place with guys who had come up through the system. The result was golden.

Not everyone around the NBA is happy that Colangelo — who also is an executive with the Philadelphia 76ers — has access to all this top talent from the NBA and could potentially leverage that to his advantage. The NBA put limits on his contacts with players, although he can speak to them specifically about USA basketball issues.

Colangelo is already talking about who might make the 2020 roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but he and the national team face real challenges before then. As Colangelo noted, FIBA changed the schedule for qualifications to the World Cup, which is now in 2019 (one year before the Olympics) to be during the NBA and other winter seasons of top leagues. Unlike European soccer leagues, which take breaks so players can compete in these tournaments, the NBA and top Europeans and other leagues are not. So the USA will be sending and interesting team of D-Leaguers and others to these games. It’s a disastrous idea from FIBA that Colangelo and USA Basketball have to deal with.

He’s not retiring; that’s for sure.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
6 Comments

Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.