On occasional mornings, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“Let me also answer that question,” Popovich declared. “You asked the same sort of question last time, you assume things that aren’t true.”
The reporter interrupted Popovich at this point, leading to a testy exchange between the pair.
“Are you gonna let me finish my statement or not?” Popovich repeated numerous times in the back and forth before the reporter relented. “So you’ll be quiet now while I talk. And then I’ll listen to you,”
“When you make statements about in the past, just blowing out these other teams … No. 1 you give no respect to the other teams. I talked to you last time about the same thing. We’ve had very close games against four or five countries in all these tournaments. So, the good teams do not get blown out. There are certain games it might happen in one of the tournaments, world championships and Olympics when somebody gets blown out but in general, nobody is blowing anybody out for the good teams. So, when you make a statement like that it’s like you assume that’s what’s going on and that’s incorrect.”
It’s clear Popovich did not want the blowout narrative to take hold by trying to take the reporter to task following a second straight defeat for USA Basketball. It’s rare to see such a heated exchange after an exhibition contest but it was a sign that Popovich wanted to defend his players from not living up to early expectations.
A couple years ago, the C’s had four guys on Team USA. That team went to China and played well below the standards expected not only of past US national teams, but below what should be expected of any team that fielded an entire roster of NBA players, when matched up against national teams that only had a few NBA players on their side of the ball.
At the time, I expressed some concern that the issues Team USA experienced were in part due to immaturity or a lack of preparedness on the part of the C’s on the roster.
But now, with a better Team USA looking just as unprepared to play a full game against two more national teams, and this time with just a single Celtic on the roster, I’m beginning to wonder if the problem is on the bench.
To put it bluntly, the Australians made halftime adjustments, Team USA did not.
And to put it more bluntly: I wonder if Popovich should be coaching Team USA.
Yes, the Americans are missing a few guys who are still playing in the Finals, but this is a team that has All-NBA players on it. I don’t care how good the Australians or the Nigerians are, or how badly they want to win, the talent gap should be insurmountable.
Pop has a point about close games in international basketball tournaments. But it’s also a fact that Team USA has lost as many games in the past three days as they’ve lost in the previous thirty years.
So, yeah, I’m starting to wonder if it’s time for Pop to turn over the reins to Hammon and retire—if that’s something he’s capable of. Somehow or another, the guy who connected with David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker alienated Kawhi Leonard, leading to an acrimonious split; and in the kind of high-pressure situations that he formerly thrived in, he’s looked inadequate and ill-prepared. Team USA hasn’t just been out-hustled, they’ve been outcoached.
Page 2: Where Forsberg says, ‘maybe Mills?’
Mills can provide steady minutes off the bench while bringing an infectious energy and scoring pop. He’s not a great playmaker but he can operate in the pick and roll and will value the ball. He’s going to hit open spot-up looks and push the ball whenever possible. Mills has also been extremely durable and would provide a healthy dose of veteran leadership.
The downside is his size and Boston has watched smaller guards get picked on in recent seasons. There’s also a bit of redundancy with second-year guard Payton Pritchard, who could benefit from more playing time and Boston would be quite undersized if those two shared the floor in reserve pairings.
Having a veteran like Mills, who spent seven seasons with Udoka in San Antonio, could help foster buy-in, especially with Mills’ reputation as a leader in San Antonio. The question is ultimately what does the market dictate for a price tag and Boston could probably land an Ish Smith-type player at a more reasonable rate if Mills has bidders.
Going for Mills–or a similar PG—is a sign that the C’s want to contend now. The departure of Kemba Walker leaves a gap that Smart can fill, mostly, but Smart’s move into the starting lineup leaves the C’s bench rather thin. If the C’s re-sign Fournier, there’s a possibility that they can convert him into the team’s sixth man by starting Williams and Horford. But when Williams is unavailable, Fournier is likely to be pulled into the starting lineup, leaving the bench with no veteran scoring options.
Now that’s not necessarily a problem if you don’t want to win a championship in 2022. In that case, you figure you’re going to develop guys like Pritchard, Nesmith and Langford. But 2022 is the first year of Tatum’s rookie extension, and it starts the countdown to his unrestricted free agency. Brown is one year ahead of Tatum and can leave in 2024. Both have been to the ECF three times already, and while it may be well-argued that the Eastern Conference was incredibly weak the first two years they made it, these guys are not going to be content playing for a team that eschews veteran help in order to give minutes to new guys hoping for a title window that never comes.
I like the idea of the C’s signing Patty Mills. A healthy C’s team that starts Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford and Williams with Mills and Fournier in reserve? That’s not a ‘Big Three’ team. That’s a well-rounded team that can beat you several different ways.