When Monty Williams left the Thunder coaching staff following the sudden and tragic death of his wife, he still reportedly planned to continue as a Team USA assistant.
Devoting time to his five children made sense. But why was he so set on working the Rio Olympics?
It’s due to something his late wife, Ingrid Williams, once told him.
Williams, via Hannah Storm of ESPN:
When I was in Orlando playing – this was like 17 years ago – she told me, she said, “You’re going to be in the Olympics one day,” out of the blue, just unprompted. I looked at her, and I was like, “I’m a solid player, but I don’t think they’re going to have me on the Olympic team.” And she didn’t even respond. She just looked at me.
She was right. USA Basketball hired Williams as Mike Krzyzewski’s assistant coach in 2013, so these are Williams’ first Olympics. He even brought his five children to Rio to share the experience with him.
It’s a great moment for a family that has endured so much – and a tribute to Ingrid.
In the above video – well worth watching in full – Monty also explains how she served as a guiding light for his powerful eulogy and how energized he is by coaching again. He’ll reportedly work for the Spurs next season.
Team USA’s basketball stars watched Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky swim, and the NBA players definitely appeared to enjoy the show.
Not as much as an Australian swimmer enjoyed seeing Kevin Durant near the pool.
Kyle Chalmers, via The Sydney Morning Herald:
“Last night I was walking over to my semifinals and Kevin Durant walked in front of me,” Chalmers told reporters in Rio, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “To be honest with you I almost vomited. My jaw dropped. I was that excited and nervous. It was just amazing for me.”
“I watch Kevin Durant’s MVP speech before every single race and I watch a highlights video of him,” Chalmers said. “Our team manager actually grabbed him last night and got a video of him saying he watched me swim and good luck which was really exciting.
“They actually had to show it to me this morning because they knew I wouldn’t be able to focus if I saw it tonight before my race – I’m a big fan.
Chalmers won gold in the 100-meter freestyle. He also posted his Durant video:
This is very cool and all, but did Durant call him Karl?
Manu Ginobili is one of the greatest international players of all time, and it has been a treat to watch him play for Argentina in these Olympics. We’re nearing the end for the 39-year-old Ginobili, who signed only a one-year deal with the Spurs this summer.
Want to better understand Ginobili before he retires? Read this fantastic profile of him by Zach Lowe of ESPN. It’s chock full of analysis and anecdotes, including my favorite:
Toward the end of an early September 2007 pickup game involving Spurs and visiting free agents, Ginobili dove through three players to retrieve a loose ball and flung it to a teammate. That player scored, and Popovich, watching, stopped the scrimmage even though it wasn’t over.
He gathered everyone and asked them: “What does that play mean to you?” Popovich told them Ginobili wanted to win more than anyone on the floor, and that if the Spurs wished to repeat after their 2007 title, they would all need to play that hard. Popovich walked away, and everyone thought the speech was over. Suddenly, he turned: “And Manu: It’s f—ing September. Never do that again in September.”
Again, I HIGHLY suggest reading Lowe’s story in full. The examination of the evolution of the Gregg Popovich-Ginobili relationship alone makes this worth reading, and there’s plenty more fun stuff.
Team USA escaped a close call with Australia yesterday thanks in part to Kyrie Irving‘s clutch fourth quarter.
Oh how differently it could’ve gone.
Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:
Irving was 17 and mulling over an invitation to play for Australia – the country in which he was born and spent the first two years of his life – on its under-18 team. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, in the middle of a Team USA tenure that has resurrected America’s supremacy in the game, then told the youngster he needed to think bigger.
“It was very serious,” Irving said of how close he came to playing for Australia, which would’ve later made him ineligible to play for the nation where he grew up. “It was a legit thing, until Coach K intervened. He strong-armed me. As a young fella, he did tell me I had a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself. He said, ‘You could be the starting point guard on the U.S. Olympic team.’ I never thought it would happen as soon as it has, but I had aspirations and dreams of being a guard on an Olympic team.”
Irving was born in Australia while his dad played professional basketball there, and he holds dual citizenship. It would’ve been reasonable to pick Australia, because there was no guarantee Irving would develop into a player worthy of making the superior Team USA.
In hindsight, Irving would’ve just upgraded the Australians’ strongest position. They already have Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills at point guard. The Americans have a bigger relative need at point guard with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and John Wall skipping the Rio Olympics.
Good thing for Team USA that Irving and Krzyzewski share such a strong bond.
Carmelo Anthony made a reasonable prediction, but he went 0-for-2.
Anthony predicted the Knicks would face the Bulls – with all the Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and even Dwyane Wade storylines – on either Christmas or opening night. But New York is reportedly scheduled to play the Celtics on Christmas.
As for opening night?
Ian Begley of ESPN:
It’s unclear whether this would also be the Cavaliers’ first game.
The Cavs opened with the Knicks two years ago, LeBron James‘ first game back in Cleveland as a Cavalier. New York won that one, but it wasn’t a sign of things to come. The Cavs finished 53-29 and reached the NBA Finals. The Knicks ended up 17-65.
So, this would be a high-profile game with New York’s market and all the big names on both teams. Just don’t read too much into the single early result.