Spurs Hire WNBA Star Becky Hammon As Assistant Coach

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Blake Schuster
Chicago Tribune
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

Becky Hammon, who plays for the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, joined the staff of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday.

“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Popovich said in a statement. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”

Contract terms were not disclosed.

“On behalf of the WNBA, I want to congratulate Becky on today’s announcement,” WNBA President Laurel J. Richie said. “Voted one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Greatest Players, Becky is a true leader both on and off the court. Her great knowledge of and passion for the game will be an asset to the San Antonio Spurs when she assumes her role as an assistant coach following her retirement from the WNBA.”

Hammon is not the first woman assistant coach in the NBA. Lisa Boyer, now associate head women’s basketball coach at South Carolina, was a volunteer assistant on coach John Lucas’ staff with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001-02.

In late July, Hammon announced the 2014 season would be her last in the WNBA. However, with the Stars sitting comfortably in the Western Conference playoff picture, Hammon’s last game is still undetermined. Her final regular-season game will take place at All-State Arena against the Chicago Sky on Aug. 17.

The six-time WNBA All-Star ranks as the Stars’ all-time leader in assists (1,112) and three-pointers (493), amassing 5,809 points to date (seventh most in WNBA history).

Ray Allen In No Hurry To Make Decision On His Future

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Don Amore
The Hartford Courant
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

EAST GRANBY, Conn. — Ray Allen could play one more year in the NBA. He is wanted, and he knows it.

Or he could retire with no regrets, all business finished. All the years of solid play and diligent work at conditioning have put him, at 39, in this rare position — to script his own ending, and take his time doing it.

“I’m not in any rush [to make a decision],” Allen said during a break in the Citi Ray Allen Basketball ProCamp at East Granby High on Saturday morning. “I’ve played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I’m content with everything that I’ve done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes.”

Allen, an All-American who scored 1,922 points at UConn, is back in Connecticut doing his usual summer round of good works, including hosting this camp for 200 boys and girls in grades 1 through 12. Last week, his Ray of Hope Foundation provided a new computer lab for Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk, something he has done for other schools across the state. On Monday, he will host his annual golf tournament, benefiting his foundation, at the TPC in Cromwell.

And next Friday he will appear in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Classic at Mohegan Sun, which raises money for cardiac research at UConn.

Meanwhile, as the memory of the Miami Heat’s loss to the Spurs in the NBA Finals fades, Allen, who averaged 26 minutes and 9.6 points off the bench and made 37.5 percent of his three-point shots last season, is taking calls from LeBron James and others hoping to lure him to Cleveland, where he would rejoin James.

“To continue playing, really, the only argument is I can because I’m in great shape,” Allen said. “But just because you can doesn’t mean you have to. Many people over these last couple of weeks have lobbied for me to continue to play. … My argument for not playing is, I have done a significant amount in my career and I appreciate everything that has come my way and as I’ve gotten older, I’m 39, there are so many things in life I want to be able to do to affect change — like being around kids full time, which I enjoy.

“So at this point I just feel so good about where I am.”

Allen has played for the Bucks, SuperSonics, Celtics and Heat during his long career, and he holds the NBA records for three-pointers made in both the regular season (2,973) and postseason (385), hitting 40 percent across the board. He played on championship teams with Boston in 2008 and Miami in 2013, when he made a crucial three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It’s a Hall of Fame body of work, whether Allen takes another three or not.

“I don’t want to go into a situation where I don’t understand the coaching, don’t understand the direction of the team,” Allen said. “My family is very important in making the decision. Right now, there is nothing that I need to do. If I ultimately decide this will be it for me, I’m content with that.”

Allen’s former teammate, Kevin Ollie, is also in a good place, having coached UConn to the national championship in his second year at the helm and attracting offers to coach in the NBA. Ollie chose to stay in Storrs with a new five-year, $16 million contract.

“I knew he would be great, that he was going to be successful there,” Allen said. “It’s not even that he won a championship — we all revel in it, we’re all so proud of him and he’s brought bragging rights to the state — but more important, I’m proud of what he’s done for those young men. Everybody has alway respected him. When he became an assistant at UConn [in 2010], he started to get into the minds of the players. He got into their minds and started forcing them to be better.”

Ollie also had a long NBA career, and if he one day he decides to make the jump, Allen thinks he has what it takes to get into the minds of professionals, too.

“Kevin would make it work because he is adaptable,” Allen said. “He understands the nature of who the players are. He’s not one of these guys that’s a hard-liner, one way and this is how it’s going to be. He’s trying to find out what his guys want and what they need. So far, that’s what has made him successful.”

Allen pushes the youngsters with whom he works to put their electronics away, get off the couch, out of the house and get moving. He believes he has already begun his post-playing career as a “coach.”

“I am a coach,” he said. “I don’t have to have a title. I have five children that need guidance. One of them [Tierra] is 21, she goes to Quinnipiac University, and I feel I am always in her ear trying to guide her as she grows. Every camp I do, I’m always trying to figure out how I can help kids get better, so holding the actual title of coach, that doesn’t matter to me. In life, I’m a coach. I think we all are.”

New NBA Lottery Format Would Hit Sixers Hard

Philadelphia 76ers Announce Sam Hinkie as President of Basketball Operations and General Manager

Keith Pompey
The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Multiple NBA sources have confirmed that the 76ers are against a proposal that would balance out the draft lottery as early as next summer.

General manager Sam Hinkie could not be reached for comment.

League sources said Wednesday afternoon that the Sixers won’t get any sympathy from fellow franchises. That’s because for the second consecutive season, the Sixers are expected to field a roster below NBA standards in order to guarantee losses in hopes of a high draft pick.

This tactic, said one Eastern Conference executive, is having “a negative effect on the integrity of the NBA.” He believes the proposed new format, which could get a league vote in the fall, would go a long way to preventing teams from duplicating what the Sixers are doing.

Under the current format, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of receiving the top pick in the current lottery. The squad with the second worst record has a 19.9 percent chance, while the third-worst team has a 15.6 chance of getting the No. 1 pick. The odds keep shrinking until the lottery team with the best record has a 0.5 percent chance of moving up.

Several aspects of the proposed format have yet to be finalized. But it would balance out the odds so all 14 lottery teams would have a chance to win the top pick.

The proposal would give at least the teams with the four worst records an equal 11 percent chance of winning the top pick. The next team would receive a 10 percent chance. The lottery team with the best record would have a 2 percent chance of finishing first.

The NBA Board of Governors could vote to pass this proposal during its preseason meeting in October. In turn, the Sixers would not benefit from another season of tanking.

The Sixers believe they are just taking advantage of a rule that has been in place.

However, a league source said teams believe the Sixers made a mockery of that rule by fielding a roster full of NBA Development League talent.

Last season, the Sixers ranked next to last in the NBA to the Bucks in overall attendance (15,655) and home attendance (13,869).

The Sixers finished 19-63 two seasons removed from being one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals.

There was a 13-game road losing streak. There were the back-to-back road losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors by a combined 88 points. And who can forget the 26-game losing streak that matched the record for consecutive losses by a U.S. pro sports team?

And there were the 28 players on the roster at one time or another. Six of those players were on 10-day contracts. Two others — Danny Granger and Earl Clark — never played a game. The final roster had eight players with at least one stint in the D-League during their careers.

Much of the same is expected for the upcoming season.

The Sixers have not made any free-agent acquisitions and are $30 million under the salary cap. They also acquired two first-rounders in center Joe Embiid and forward Dario Saric who might not see the court next season.

Embiid could miss the entire season with a fractured right foot. Saric signed a three-year contract last month to play in the Turkish League. The standout forward is expected to spend at least two years overseas.

The Sixers have also tried to trade power forward Thaddeus Young, arguably their best player.

So although the pieces seem to be in place for another dismal season, the Sixers might not benefit from it come draft night.

Donald Sterling’s Court “Loss” Is Really His Gain

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Mark Melin
Displayed with permission from Value Walk

As the man is ruled mentally incapable by two doctors rejects a sweetheart deal over a further ego boost, perhaps not hitting Steve Balmer’s Clipper’s offer might be the real sign of insanity

News reports say that Donald Sterling “lost” his recent battle with his longtime wife, who wants to sell an ego boost called the Los Angeles Clippers to an overpaying Microsoft founder looking for a new toy. Is this report that he “lost” accurate, or is the Donald of the west coast delusional?

A California probate judge ruled Monday that Shelly Sterling’s deal to sell the “other” and often little recognized Los Angeles basketball team for a record can proceed. This might be a huge benefit to the elder Mr. Sterling as he should be happy to take the money and run.

Judge Michael Levanas ruled in favor of Shelly Sterling, saying that when she removed Sterling from the trust that owns the NBA team it was proper, as Donald might be a little unbalanced in his market judgments. The court ruled Shelly Sterling was within her rights to oust her husband from the trust because he was mentally imbalanced, a headline in the CNN article reads. Mrs. Sterling became sole trustee in May after two doctors determined Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated, the report noted.

An appeal by Donald Sterling is unlikely to be successful, a CNN legal analyst noted, because it would likely be based on facts and Appellate courts are loathsome to overturn a probate judge’s decision on facts.

“His reaction is very calm,” Bobby Samini, Sterling’s attorney who benefits from a prolonged court fight, was quoted as saying. “He didn’t see this as the final battleground. This is one stage of a long war,” from which Samini is happy to fight.

As previously reported in ValueWalk, former Microsoft Corporation executive Steve Ballmer is over paying for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team to a historic level, a bid book complied by financial experts suggests. Ballmer’s $2 billion bid is nearly double where sports financial experts had valued the team.

Steve Balmer is basking in the congratulatory glow that is akin to “winning” a “prize” at a charity auction. Everyone congratulates the winning bidder for essentially overpaying for a charity item.

“We are pleased that the court has affirmed Shelly Sterling’s right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer,” the NBA said through spokesman Mike Bass. “We look forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible.”

In other words, take the money and run, Donald.

Pierce O’Donnell, an attorney for Shelly Sterling, said they hoped to ignore the Donald Sterling’s objections and have the sale completed by August 13.

“This is going to be a good thing for the city, for the league, for my family, for all of us,” said Shelly Sterling, who added she will still be sitting courtside next season as if to taunt his skirt chasing former husband.

The Donald of the west needs to move on, root for a new team. The Brooklyn Dodgers (or whatever that basketball team off the island is named) might want a high profile fan to sit courtside alongside movie producer Spike Lee. Who knows, he might find a new “girlfriend” in the process. There are plenty of single hedge fund guys running around in the Hamptons right now who could operate as his wing-man.

Derrick Rose Ready For USA Basketball

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K.C. Johnson
Chicago Tribune
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

Everyone associated with Derrick Rose’s second serious knee rehabilitation has said the process has gone smoothly.

Now, it’s finally time to publicly see the results.

Rose on Monday will be one of 18 players at USA Basketball’s five-day minicamp in Las Vegas. The week begins the process that will include a three-day August stint in Chicago and culminate with a 12-man roster traveling to Spain for the FIBA Basketball World Cup from late August to mid-September.

Rose hasn’t answered questions about his basketball performance since scoring 19 points in 33 minutes during a Bulls’ loss at Denver last Nov. 21. The next night, he tore his right meniscus on a seemingly benign backcut against the Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore.

“This is the next step,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who also serves as Mike Krzyzewski’s assistant for USA Basketball. “Derrick has handled every step to this point the right way. The last time he participated in USA Basketball, he followed that with his MVP season (in 2010-11). So we’re hoping he can use this time productively.”

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski typically place a high premium on previous experience in making roster decisions. So the fact Rose played on the 2010 World Championship team that won gold in Turkey is equity that could come in handy.

Still, Rose could be racing rust against elite competition. And the point guard position is stacked even with Russell Westbrook’s withdrawal. Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Portland’s Damian Lillard and Washington’s John Wall certainly will test Rose’s conditioning.

Rose, who also tore his left ACL in the first game of the 2012 NBA playoffs, has appeared in just 50 games over the last three NBA seasons.

Besides Rose and Thibodeau, Bulls’ first-round acquisition Doug McDermott and Jimmy Butler are scheduled to be in Las Vegas on the Select team that will practice against the National team.

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DeMarcus Cousins Can Learn A Lot From Charles Barkley

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Ailene Voisin
The Sacramento Bee
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

LAS VEGAS — DeMarcus Cousins celebrates his 24th birthday in two weeks, which means that if he earns a roster spot on the U.S. national team preparing for the basketball World Cup that begins Aug. 30 in Spain, he will be years ahead of Charles Barkley at a similar age.

We mention Barkley because USA Basketball officials have not confronted anyone as talented, controversial and intriguing since the Hall of Fame forward — at age 29 — emerged as an original 1992 Dream Team sensation.

Different strokes, different generations, different issues. But Barkley serves as a powerful teaching lesson for Cousins for a number of reasons, namely because he also had to convince skeptical American basketball officials that he would curb his behavior and represent his country honorably and without incident in the first Olympic Games featuring NBA superstars.

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler. The roster was ridiculous, and Barkley, as one of the most dominating players and personalities of his generation, absolutely belonged on the team.

“But Charles had a few incidents,” recalled former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik, who supervised the league’s foray into international competition. “He tore some equipment apart in the locker room. There was an incident in Milwaukee where somebody did or didn’t go through a window. We decided to have a conversation with him. Rod (Thorn) and I got him on the phone and told him the committee wanted him on the team. ‘And can you be a good ambassador? Are you ready to take on that role?’ He took nothing for granted. But we took him at his word, and as you know, he was terrific.”

After being chided by teammates for his excessive physical play in the opener against skinny Angolan forward Herlander Coimbra ? and doesn’t that sound like the criticism of Cousins during his first Team USA practice two summers ago? ? he dominated both the Games and the street scene.

Barkley was a charmer, an irresistible presence, and by the end of the Games, a beloved figure and reigning Pied Piper of Barcelona, and an emerging superstar throughout Europe. While other Dream Teamers sought refuge in their hotel, the power forward strolled the grand boulevards in his matching shorts and shirts, spent hours shaking hands, signing autographs, attracting hundreds of followers into the wee hours.

“Charles is unique, in so many ways, in the annals of the NBA,” Granik added, chuckling. “You can’t help but love him. And it turns out, he has this great talent on air.”

Cousins doesn’t have to imitate Barkley — not that anyone could — but he has several advantages as he attempts to make the World Cup team. The original Dream Team and recent Team USA squads are Hall of Fame snapshots. The ’92 Dreamers didn’t need Barkley. But the 2014 squad needs Cousins, whom NBA execs repeatedly refer to as the most talented big man in the league. Several players originally named to the World Cup talent pool have withdrawn for various reasons, including power forwards Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin.

USA Basketball czar Jerry Colangelo — who wasn’t thrilled with Cousins’ history of behavior issues, NBA suspensions and demeanor during training camp two years but admittedly was intrigued with his talent — may be pressed to take another look. He wasn’t so keen about Aldridge’s decision or the more abrupt withdrawal of Griffin, either. And these USA types historically have long memories. Colangelo also has an affinity for players who fully commit to the cause — which Cousins apparently has done. He worked out with the Kings during the NBA Summer League and is expected to arrive at this week’s training camp in excellent shape.

That could be critical for his prospects. So could the real world. While U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski is masterful at mixing lineups and utilizing his versatility, his list of available bigs has been significantly thinned by the withdrawals.

Cousins — still an emerging star, still working his way into the good graces of the powers-that-be has a tremendous opportunity. He doesn’t have to charm like Charles, and he won’t be asked to strip down to Bermuda shorts and shirts or stroll along the Strip. But he can learn from the Hall of Famer, who interestingly is a frequent critic.

Cousins is turning 24. Charles was 29 when he made his Team USA debut. Why not now?

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Playground Basketball Is Dying

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At Rucker Park in New York, people sat on rooftops and climbed trees to watch Julius Erving play. In Louisville, Kentucky, Artis Gilmore would pull up in his fancy car, still wearing his fancy suits, and just ball. Kevin Durant first measured the worth of his game on the D.C. playgrounds, and Arthur Agee chased his hoop dream in Chicago. The Philadelphia outdoor courts once boasted a who’s who of the city’s best ballers, and in Los Angeles, playground legends with names such as Beast, Iron Man and Big Money Griff played on the same concrete as Magic and Kobe.

That was then, a then that wasn’t all that long ago.

Now? Now the courts are empty, the nets dangling by a thread. The crowds that used to stand four deep are gone, and so are the players. Once players asked “Who’s got next?” Now the question is “Anyone want to play?” And the answer seems to be no, at least not here, not outside.

Playground basketball, at least as we knew it, is dying.

“Playground Basketball Is Dying” via ESPN

LeBron James Sent His Neighbours Cupcakes To Apologize

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LeBron James made a sweet move by sending his neighbors in Ohio cupcakes as his way of apologizing for all of the chaos he caused this summer.

In what was a classy move, James hired representatives from a Fairlawn, Ohio, bakery around his immediate neighborhood in Bath Township to deliver cupcakes to apologize for the traffic jams caused by the interest in James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month.

“Dear Friend,” read a card that came with the treats. “We know things have been hectic in our neighborhood these past few weeks and we are sorry for the chaos. We are so thankful to live in this wonderful community and we are so blessed to have understanding neighbors like you.”

The card also explained that the two kinds of cupcakes in the box, “Just A Kid From Akron Cherry Cola” and “Homecourt Chocolate Chunk”, were originally devised for James’ foundation.

Cleveland Cavaliers Trade Carrick Felix to Utah Jazz

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The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to make moves in order to secure the necessary pieces to obtain Kevin Love.

The latest domino has the Cavaliers sending guard Carrick Felix to Utah for three players with non-guaranteed contracts.

While this deal in a vacuum doesn’t seem noteworthy, it provides the Cavs with more assets to go after Love.

The Cavs sent Felix, a second-round pick in 2015, and $1 million to the Jazz for guard John Lucas III and forwards Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.

This trade will allow the Cavs to clear $3.3 million in salary cap space.