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Spurs C Pau Gasol: Becky Hammon obviously qualified to be NBA head coach

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The first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history, the Spurs’ Becky Hammon became the first woman to interview for an NBA head-coaching position, with the Bucks.

That has sparked plenty of discussion about her, women in coaching and the wider notion of fairness.

San Antonio center Pau Gasol has jumped into the conversation.

Gasol in The Players Tribune:

But if you think I’m writing this to argue why Becky is qualified to be an NBA head coach … well, you’re mistaken. That part is obvious: One, she was an accomplished player — with an elite point guard’s mind for the game. And two, she has been a successful assistant for arguably the greatest coach in the game. What more do you need? But like I said — I’m not here to make that argument. Arguing on Coach Hammon’s behalf would feel patronizing. To me, it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach.

Gasol goes on to shoot down a few arguments – that women aren’t capable of coaching men, that the Spurs hired Hammon just for publicity, that there’d be an awkwardness in the locker room.

The first is obviously bogus. Nobody’s coaching acumen is defined by their gender.

Why did San Antonio hire Hammon? I can’t get into anyone’s head, but Popovich has long insisted it’s just about her coaching ability.

Would there be locker-room issues? Gasol shoots down the most basic suspicion – noting that players and coaches change clothes in different spaces, anyway. But it’d be naïve to think there are no NBA players who’d say uncomfortable things about her in the locker room. Not that teams should accommodate those backward-thinking players. Just pointing out an issue.

I’d rather discuss what Gasol glosses over, though: Is Hammon qualified to be an NBA head coach?

She was an all-time great player in the WNBA then has spent the last four years as a Spurs assistant behind the bench. That’s a nice résumé, and her career is advancing accordingly.

But it’s unprecedented for an NBA head coach.

How much to value her WNBA experience is tricky, though an endeavor teams should undertake. The NBA has not only a different playing style, but a different lifestyle. NBA players, with high salaries and massive fame, face different issues than the rest of us. Maybe Hammon can and does relate, but it’s not simply due to playing in the WNBA.

She also hasn’t yet become one of the top three Spurs assistants who sit on the bench during games. Those three: Ettore Messina, James Borrego (since hired as the Hornets’ head coach) and Ime Udoka. Hammon sits behind the bench. Practically all NBA coaches who rose through the assistant ranks to become a head coach graduated to an on-bench role first.

Hammon faces obstacles her male counterparts don’t, and that she made it this far speaks to her ability. Perhaps, she’s a coaching prodigy who hasn’t gotten a chance to show her genius in a male-dominated profession. If so, a team should hire her as head coach.

But maybe she’s like most people, possessing some natural ability that must be refined with time and hard work. Four years as a behind-the-bench assistant isn’t typically seen as enough to become a head coach.

So, is Hammon already qualified to be a head coach? Maybe, and Gasol’s endorsement counts. But I definitely don’t find it to be as obvious as he states.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.

Report: Jon Leuer expected to return to Pistons by start of season

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Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…

If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.

The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.