Wednesday, August 6, 2014

First The Spurs Won The Title: Now They Are Making History!

It's time to Break It Down!

On June 15th, the San Antonio Spurs clinched the NBA Title, defeating the Miami Heat, and in effect, ending the LeBron James era in South Beach.  On July 11th, LeBron announced he would take his considerable talents back to Cleveland, likely ending the string of consecutive trips by the Heat to the NBA Finals at four.

That was then.  What could Coach Popovich and the Spurs do for an encore?  Coach Pop and Tim Duncan have collaborated in 5 NBA Titles.  It appears as though Timmy is set to return next year and engage Kobe Bryant in a race to see if one of them can be the first (between the two of them) to capture number 6.

But that’s a tale that will not be told until next spring.  Apparently, the Spurs wanted to make a statement now, and that they did.  Yesterday, they announced the hiring of Rebecca (Becky) Hammon as an Assistant Coach.  In doing so, they made her the first female to become a full-time Regular Season Assistant Coach in the League.  This year, Natalie Nakase, an assistant video coordinator for the Clippers, was hired to help run the Summer League.  Also, during the 2001-02 Season, when John Lucas coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lisa Boyer served as a Volunteer Assistant with the Cavs.  However, Ms. Boyer did not travel with the team.  In contrast, Hammon will operate in the capacity of a full-time Assistant, and will travel with the team.

Hammon, a veteran WNBA player had already announced her retirement, slated for the end of the WNBA Season.  As a member of the San Antonio Stars, she and the Spurs were already familiar with each other.  In fact, she had previously worked with the Spurs; a key factor in Coach Popovich’s comfort level with her.  CNN reported that Popovich, in speaking of Hammon said:

"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff."  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."

Hammon is a 6-time WNBA All-Star.  She has played the last 8 seasons with the San Antonio Stars.  In describing her feelings on the historically significant occasion, she said:

"I'm just incredibly grateful, obviously, to the Spurs organization and Coach Pop and (Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford).  “The whole staff really just from day one has been so great to me. I'm a little overwhelmed right now, to be perfectly honest."

Coach Pop found out from Dan Hughes, Hammon’s Coach with the Stars, that she was interested in pursuing coaching.  That in turn led to Popovich creating an opportunity for her to spend time working with the Spurs, and to a feature on NBA Inside Stuff.  In that feature, Coach Popovich called her a natural.  Danny Green, a former Tar Heel, and naturally my favorite Spur, spoke complimentary about her as well:

“Everybody here respects her.  She’s a really good player and also a good person to have around.  She understands the game.”

Hammon spent the second half of her sixteen-year WNBA career in San Antonio, after spending the first 8 years with the New York Liberty.  Like many WNBA players, Hammon played overseas during the off-season.  In 2008, she became a naturalized Russian citizen.  After feeling she was not getting sufficiently noticed by Team USA, she opted to play for the Russian Olympic Team in 2008, and again in 2012.  She should fit right in with the Spurs, who are considered the NBA’s International Team, and for good reason.  See below:

Tim Duncan – Virgin Islands (American, though not Continental US, or 1 of the 50 States)
Tony Parker – Belgium (French Nationality)
Manu Ginobili – Argentina
Patrick Mills – Australia
Boris Diaw – France
Tiago Splitter – Brazil
Marco Belinelli – Italy
Aron Baynes – New Zealand
Cory Joseph – Canada
Livio Jean-Charles – French Guiana
Nemanja Dangubic – Yugoslavia

Lest you draw the mistaken conclusion that the Spurs have no players who hale from the 50 States, they do:

Kawhi Leonard – California (NBA Finals MVP, by the way)
Danny Green – New York (A couple of jump shots away from having been last year’s NBA Finals MVP)
Kyle Anderson – New York
Jeff (Pendergraph) Ayres – California (Ontario though…;-))
Matt Bonner – New Hampshire

A quick overview reveals that of the 16 players currently on the Spur’s roster, 10 of them are from countries other than the U.S., 1 is from an unincorporated U.S. Territory, and 5 are from the Continental U.S (2 from California, 2 from New York, and 1 from New Hampshire, all from the East or the West Coast).

Welcome to the NBA Ms. Hammon.  “First The Spurs Won The Title: Now They Are Making History!”  I’m done; holla back!”

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