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Gregg Popovich isn’t paying attention to Mike Francesa’s comments about Becky Hammon

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a Hall of Famer, a five-time NBA champion, and a guy who is smart enough to know talent when he sees it. The guy knows a thing or two about NBA basketball. That’s why he hired 6-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon to his bench.

Pop stands behind Hammon, and so the Spurs coach responded accordingly when asked about radio host Mike Francesa’s comments about Hammon never becoming a head coach in the NBA.

“I don’t pay any attention to it because it’s nonsense,” Popovich said.

In case you are out of the loop, Francesa, a New York sports radio host at WFAN, answered a caller question earlier in March about Hammon’s chances at becoming a head coach.

“No shot. I mean, the odds are a million to one,” said Francesa. “And if it wasn’t for Gregg — if it wasn’t the most the most dominant coach in the league doing that, I’m not sure anyone else would even hire a woman right now.”

That’s of course missing the point that Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman is also an assistant coach for an NBA team. She sits on the Sacramento Kings bench and has since 2015.

The NBA is one of the most forward-thinking leagues, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to a woman to coach an NBA team, including Hammon. To Francesa’s point, there’s no precedent for a female head coach in the NBA, but there wasn’t one before Hammon and Lieberman became full-time assistant coaches, either.

If you’ve ever spent time around NBA coaches before, it’s a job that takes a special type of personality and command of attention of other people. If Hammon or Lieberman or anyone else wasn’t making the cut as an assistant, they would not remain on an NBA bench. But they do, so what does that tell you?

Popovich said of Hammon in 2015 that, “She’s a leader, she’s fiery, she’s got intelligence, and our guys just respected the heck out of her, so she’s coaching with us, she’s running drills. That’s why we made her a full-time coach.”

That sentiment has been echoed by Spurs GM R.C. Buford, who even said Hammon has received head coaching offers from men’s college basketball teams while she’s been with San Antonio. That was in 2016.

By most accounts, Becky Hammon isn’t going anywhere but up. The opinions of a sports radio jockey outside the San Antonio market, who has no intimate knowledge of Hammon’s personality, coaching style, or reputation within the organization, and who once interviewed George Karl thinking he was Jerry Sloan, is sort of hard to take seriously given context.

Meanwhile, a writer at the Wall Street Journal has offered a public bet of $1,000 — going to charity of course — to Francesa if Hammon becomes an NBA head coach in the next five years.

Mark your calendars.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.