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Hornets’ Steve Clifford opens up about severe headaches that forced time away

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“For me, sleeping well could mean the difference between putting up 30 points and living with 15.”

That was Steve Nash, one of the biggest and earliest proponents of sleep in the league. Because of the long season and travel, the NBA is a recovery league and veteran players understand how eating right and getting sleep plays a big part of that. As teams use more and more technology, more detailed physiological tracking and science to improve their players, they have pushed for more sleep — changing around traditional travel schedules, canceling morning shootarounds, and more. Nash always got his eight hours. Kobe Bryant was big on getting sleep. Many NBA players use naps on game days to help their bodies recover.

Coaches often don’t get that time.

Charlotte’s Steve Clifford didn’t. NBA coaches are workaholics in general, especially the guys who did not come out of an NBA background like Clifford. He played Division III ball, coached in Division II, and when he got a chance on Jeff Van Gundy’s staff (and later Stan Van Gundy’s) he outworked everyone. He became a respected head coach who earned his gig, but he put in the work to get there. Sleep was the casualty.

That lack of sleep led to headaches, which is what forced him away from the team. Clifford opened up about all of this to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN in a fantastic, must-read piece.

“But this issue now, the headaches, was not even close to the heart (where he had stents put in years before). That week before I stepped away, and that morning in the office, it scared me. It was much more significant than the heart was, and I’ve never had anything physically that concerned me as much as this did….

“For the most part, the diagnosis was sleep deprivation,” Clifford told ESPN. “The headaches and the cause of the headaches were a lack of regular sleep and the stress that goes along with coaching. There were two ways to treat it: Stronger medication or stepping away from coaching, stopping the travel, getting regular sleep, diet and exercise.

“But getting on medication would only be a Band-Aid. It could get me through another day, a week, a month, but here was my decision: Long-term health versus coaching right now.”

Clifford, wisely, chose to get healthy. It took months of regular sleep — including naps — and changing other aspects of his life to get right. Not having the stress of coaching helped.

Next Wednesday he returns to the sideline, but with a management plan and a new outlook — Clifford is going to get his sleep. He’s going to take care of himself, and the Hornets — he has to do one to do the other.

It’s something a lot of us could learn from.

It’s worth your time to read the entire story.

Geeking out on NBA prospects: R.J. Barrett almost dunks from free throw line, Zion Williamson does

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Duke is stacked this coming season. STACKED. They should have three lottery picks in next year’s draft. (Does that mean they are the team to beat in the NCAA? That’s not the way basketball works. But that’s another discussion.)

Duke is in Toronto for a series of preseason exhibition games, and at the end of the workout likely No. 1 pick next June, R.J. Barrett tried to show off by almost dunking from the free throw line.

Then freak of nature Zion Williamson showed him how it’s done.

That’s worth more looks.

Damn Zion is a freak of nature. Can we just put him in the next dunk contest now?

Nancy Lieberman says more women need to follow coaching footsteps in NBA

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Whenever we discuss women assistant coaches in the NBA, the topic is usually Becky Hammon getting job interviews or being moved to the front row of seats in San Antonio. Occasionally it’s a discussion of Nancy Lieberman’s job in Sacramento — or the fact she is now a head coach in Ice Cube’s Big3 — or Jenny Boucek in Dallas.

However, when Lieberman discussed women coaches on the CBS Sports Network, she was asking a bigger question:

Who steps up next?

She has discussed the NBA version of the “Rooney Rule” before. Currently, it’s not anywhere near becoming a reality, whatever you think of the idea.

However, there needs to be real opportunities for women to get a foot in the NBA door, and more of them. Including at the entry level. There are qualified women out there, but it can be tough to crack the “old boy’s network” of the NBA coaching carousel — head coach and assistant. It exists in part because head coaches (and GMs) usually hire people they trust and worked with before, and right now those are men. Give women a chance at those entry-level positions and the dynamic starts to change.

Lieberman has been a groundbreaker her entire career. She and others are doing in the NBA again, but she’s right, the big win is changing the dynamic for the next generation. And the one after that.

In no-brainer move, Nets reportedly guarantee Spencer Dinwiddie’s $1.65 million contract

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Spencer Dinwiddie has worked hard at his game — I remember seeing him struggle some at his first Summer League and someone I trust telling me “watch this guy, he’s got the drive, he will make it” — and he is now a solid rotation NBA point guard that Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson can trust. He averaged 12.6 points per game last season with an above-average PER of 15.9.

He’s also on a steal of a current contract, so it makes sense the Nets are picking that up (it technically didn’t have to be guaranteed until Halloween). Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had the report.

https://mobile.twitter.com/wojespn/status/1029496077320257536

Next summer, Dinwiddie is a free agent. While he’s not going to break the bank, he’s a young, solid backup point guard that a lot of teams could use and he’s going to get a nice pay raise.

Carmelo Anthony on his role with Rockets: “Let’s just let it play out”

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From the moment it became clear Carmelo Anthony was going to join the Rockets — which was a long time before he actually signed the contract on Monday — the questions started:

Would he accept a reduced role with the Rockets? Maybe come off the bench? Be Olympic ‘Melo and blend in with the team?

Coach Mike D’Antoni said he spoke with Anthony and said the player is open to coming off the bench, but he’s not sure what ‘Melo’s role will be. When ambushed by TMZ trying to walk to his car, Anthony said basically the same thing.

“Let’s just let it play out, though. I don’t even know what’s going on. I just signed, let it start first.”

Anthony coming off the bench, being the fulcrum of the offense when James Harden and Chris Paul are on the bench makes some sense (CP3 and Harden are better and more efficient shot creators than Anthony at this point). It’s a chance for Anthony to get his touches and help the other two rest. However, the idea of Anthony starting the first and third quarters and getting heavy touches then but sitting more later is not out of the question.

At the end of close games, D’Antoni is more likely to lean on James Ennis — a long, switchable defender who can shoot threes in the Trevor Ariza mold — than Anthony. It will be just a better fit. Will Anthony roll with that? Will it cause problems in the locker room?

Let’s just let it play out.