Kurt Helin

150728_GreggPopovich

Gregg Popovich missed games last November due to heart procedure

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If you like hypotheticals, play around with this one:

What if Gregg Popovich had to walk away from the Spurs in the middle of last season?

So many questions come up, from how the Spurs perform through the playoffs to does Tim Duncan come back? Or does LaMarcus Aldridge come at all?

Popovich missed a couple games of Spurs’ games last November with no real reason given. Turns out it was a heart condition. Legendary coach Larry Brown talked about it with Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News.

His hip surgery had gone well, but there was a hiccup with a heart condition that was not unlike the atrial fibrillation that Fab Oberto had. Popovich underwent a procedure, and, after he had done everything the doctors had asked, palpitations returned.

Brown says the episode occurred during the preseason tour in Europe. That eventually culminated with Popovich missing two games in late November for a second procedure.

“I really believe he was close to retiring then,” Brown said.

 

For his sake, I am happy the second procedure worked. Also I’m happy for selfish reasons — the Spurs and the NBA will not be quite the same without Popovich. He can move on, he has other interests and likes to say he is not an NBA lifer — Pop is not Tom Thibodeau. Popovich has other interests. But we will miss him.

Fortunately, we’re probably four years from finding out what the league will be like without him, that’s how long Popovich has left on his contract. He has said he intends to coach until the end of it, and there’s little chance Aldridge comes to San Antonio without that commitment.

That he was healthy enough to make that commitment — and that he is heading to Africa to coach in an NBA exhibition game there next month — is a sign everything is back to normal.

Lance Stephenson dancing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? We got that. (VIDEO)

Lance Stephenson
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Turtle rock 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸

A video posted by Lance Stephenson (@stephensonlance) on

I present this without much comment.

It means nothing about how Lance Stephenson will perform as a Laker, or where his mind is at, or even if he is a good dancer. It’s just some summer Instagram fun we pass along because it’s too early to break down Brandon Bass’ impact on Los Angeles.

Hat tip to NBA Reddit.

Larry Bird: Michael Jordan would “kill me” right now in one-on-one

1998 NBA All-Star Game Portraits
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Larry Bird was on the Dan Patrick Show today, talking about more interesting topics, but somehow the comment above became a thing.

When asked, and it pained him to admit this, Bird admitted Michael Jordan would “kill me” in a game of one-on-one. You can feel the competitive Bird know it, and still hate to admit it.

If this were 30 years ago, it’s a far more entertaining question. Right now, this may put Bird in the same boat with a lot of Bobcat players, but it’s obvious. And moot.

Lakers’ coach Byron Scott says Kobe Bryant will “probably” play some power forward

Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott
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We knew that with a guard rotation of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams, the Lakers were going to slide Kobe Bryant over to the three for stretches this season. And when Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti discussed it with him, Kobe’s reaction was “I can do that.” Which is probably Kobe’s reaction to every question he is ever asked — “Hey Kobe, could you land a 747?” — but in this case he certainly can do it if healthy.

But how about Kobe at as a small four?

Not sure how Kobe feels about it, but Lakers’ coach Byron Scott is thinking about it, he told David Aldridge of NBA.com (hat tip to NBA Reddit).

“The one thing that we wanted to do and accomplish through this draft and through free agency was to try and be a little more versatile, have some versatility. So I think (Clarkson, Russell, Williams) can definitely do that. Kobe can play one, two and three. There’s no doubt in my mind. And there’s some games. against some teams, where he’ll probably play four. With his tenaciousness, the way he guards people and when his mind is set, if I say ‘Kobe, you’ve got him,’ he takes that as a challenge. You know how he is. He’ll compete.”

This is a decent idea, one worth exploring, if it is situational (the Lakers tried it very, very briefly last season).

If the Lakers are playing the Toronto Raptors and they’ve gone small with DeMarre Carroll at the four, the Lakers can match that with Kobe. Same with the Wizards if they go small and slide Jared Dudley to the four. Orlando if they go small with Tobias Harris at the four. There are matchups where this could work for the Lakers — not for long stretches, playing against bigger guys would take a toll on Kobe’s body, but for 5-10 minutes it could work.

However, notice all the teams noted above are in the East. The problem is that in the West most of the teams have fours Kobe would simply not be able to match defensively — Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka (or the Thunder go small with Kevin Durant), LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Draymond Green, and the list goes on. The West is simply a different animal with the forward spots.

That’s why most of the Lakers’ minutes at the four will be split between Julius Randle and Brandon Bass. Still, I could see a short stretch with three shooters to space the floor, Kobe at the four and Bass at the five. It’s worth taking a look at in preseason and early in the season. Scott is right, versatility matters more and more in the NBA. We’ll see if he puts that plan into action.

Larry Bird says Stephen Curry, himself in mix for best deep shooter ever

Larry Bird
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There were a lot of great shooters from eras gone by who probably watch today’s spread NBA offenses and think “man, I wish I could have played in this era.” Or, maybe more accurately, “man, I really would have gotten PAID if I played in this era.”

Pacers’ president Larry Bird was on the Dan Patrick Show and talked about the best deep shooters the game has ever seen, and where Stephen Curry falls in that discussion. It’s going to be pretty high, even now, but those two throw out some great old names, like Dale Ellis. Of course, Bird puts himself on the list.

What Bird will not do is say he can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one right now.