Gregg Popovich had a long history of giving TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager a hard time during San Antonio Spurs games. The pair were always friendly, and Sager was perhaps the person best suited to handle the often-prickly Popovich.
That said, Pop has been generously outgoing when it came to Sager as of late, as the 30-year TNT veteran battled leukemia.
On Thursday, Sager lost his battle with the disease at age 65, much to the dismay of his family, the NBA, and basketball fans around the globe who knew of him or know of his goodness.
Before the Spurs took on Suns on Thursday night, Popovich took media questions in the hallway — as coaches do before a game — but basketball was not discussed.
Powerful stuff from Popovich, whose relationship with Sager was one of the more special public relationships we’ve seen between a coach and reporter.
The full quote is below.
On a day like this basketball has to take a back seat. As we all think about somebody who was very unique, very special. Whether you really knew Craig or not, you got the feeling he was a special person in a lot of different ways, and right now I just feel for his family. To talk about him being a professional and good at what he did is a tremendous understatement. All of us who knew him understood that that fact was — what he was all about as far as work was concerned — but he was a way better person than he was a worker, even though he was amazing in that regard. He loved people, he enjoyed pregame, during game, postgame, he loved all the people around it an everybody felt that. The most amazing part of him is his courage, what he’s endured and the fight that he’s put up the courage that he’s displayed during the situation is beyond my comprehension. If any of us can display half the courage he has to stay on this planet, to live every life as if it’s his last, we’d be well off. We all miss him very much.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.
His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.
Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.