The Latest from NBA media days on Monday (all times EST):
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he has no complaints as he heads into training camp following the most tumultuous and painful times of his life.
In April 2018, his 67-year-old wife, Erin, died after a long battle with a respiratory problem. He missed much of the team’s first-round playoff series loss to Golden State. A few months later, the Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and San Antonio suffered another early exit in the postseason.Popovich and Team USA were later bounced out of the World Cup without even reaching the medal round.
There was reports the 70-year-old Popovich would not come back for a 24th season with the Spurs after winning five titles.
Popovich put a lot of talk to rest Monday at the Spurs media day, saying, “Everybody’s life has some ups and downs and hurdles, whatever you want to call it, whether it’s at home or in the workplace. That’s the measure of who you are, I think. You’ve got to look at the big picture and understand, you’re really not all that.”
The coach added, “You’re just a simple guy or gal and you carry on and try to do the best you can for yourself, for your family, for other people, for your friends and that’s what I think each of us tries to do to the best our ability. So, that’s where I’m at.”
— Raul Dominguez in San Antonio, Texas
Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone gushed over all-star center Nikola Jokic’s playoff performance, citing his average line of 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists last spring.
In another breath, though, Malone says he doesn’t want Jokic to have to repeat those statistics.
Malone envisions Jokic having a much better supporting cast this season. That would make them less reliant on their big man.
And they want to everyone to be in better shape.
One way the Nuggets hope to do that is by holding training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Malone said Monday during Denver’s media day that the Nuggets were exhausted by the time they lost Game 7 at home to the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference semifinals.
He figures if the Nuggets play at altitude they might as well train at altitude.
— Arnie Stapleton in Denver.
Joel Embiid says the 76ers have a “chance to win it all” and he expects to be in the best shape of his career to try and make it happen.
Embiid said Monday at the team’s media day that he lost 20 pounds over the offseason and is shooting for at least five more before opening night by eating right and working with team officials to get in better condition. Embiid didn’t say how much he weighs but is listed as 250 pounds on the depth chart.
Embiid has been hampered by injuries for most of his career and was hindered by illness and knee injuries during last season’s playoff run. He says “if everything goes right,” he’ll play more than the 64 games of a year ago.
The center says he has “been extremely focused on what I have to do. I still have a long way to go. I’m not at my goal yet.”
Embiid says his life so far has “been like a movie” and the perfect ending would be an NBA championship.
He averaged 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds to help take the Sixers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Embiid says he has trust in 76ers general manager Elton Brand and that former GM Bryan Colangelo “wasn’t all that.”
— Dan Gelston in Philadelphia
Zach Kleiman is the new man behind all the Memphis Grizzlies’ roster moves.
He’s been very busy since his promotion to executive vice president of basketball operations the day after last season ended for the Grizzlies.
Kleiman says, “Who knew you could make so many trades?”
The biggest move by the now 31-year-old general manager came in June when Kleiman traded away point guard Mike Conley. The Grizzlies will try to build around new point guard Ja Morant, the No. 2 pick overall in the NBA draft.
Morant has also been busy getting used to Memphis, though apparently that doesn’t include testing out all the restaurants.
The rookie says he has only really eaten at the Rendezvous, one of Memphis’ many barbecue restaurants. The guard’s father has been providing him plenty of home cooking.
Morant has taken some time to help promote Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers on social media. Morant says he plans to attend the Tigers’ Memphis Madness on Thursday night at the FedExForum they share with the Grizzlies.
And yes, Morant, who played his two seasons at Murray State, says any top recruits looking for a college home should look at the Memphis Tigers.
— Teresa M. Walker in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Charlotte Hornets are in major rebuilding mode.
They enter the season without all-time leading scorer Kemba Walker, who has signed this past offseason with the Celtics.
Hornets center Cody Zeller, who jokingly set up a lemonade stand before free agency began to help raise money to re-sign Walker, said Monday at the team’s media day that it’s tough losing the three-time All-Star because he felt like the Hornets were “close” to breaking through and becoming a playoff team with Walker.
Zeller says it feels like “something is missing” in the locker room without Walker and it will be tough to replace him because he was so well liked by teammates.
The center says “it’s going to be good” for Walker in Boston. “But yeah, it sucks for me a little bit.”
Zeller scored many of his points off of pick-and-roll sets with Walker.
— Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina
Philadelphia 76ers forward Mike Scott says he should have walked away from a fight with Eagles fans earlier this month at the stadium parking lots.
Scott was involved in a fight with Eagles fans while tailgating outside the stadium after he wore a Washington Redskins jersey and hat to the party. Scott said Monday at the 76ers media day that he heard racial slurs that escalated the fight.
Scott says he definitely has “to be the bigger person. I definitely should have walked away. I didn’t. He was talking crazy. He took it to the next level and I had to see if he’s going to match the energy.”
Scott stuck around after the incident and took selfies, and snapped photos from his seat at Lincoln Financial Field. Scott has become a popular player in the city for responding to invitations on social media and showing up to hang out with fans. He dropped in at wedding reception earlier in the summer.
He didn’t hold any grudges against Philly sports fans and would continue to become a man-about-town. Scott also laughed off the parking lot fight.
Says Scott, “It’s Philly. We had a brawl before noon.”
— Dan Gelston in Philadelphia
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra spent part of his summer trying to build a relationship with new Heat wing Jimmy Butler, featuring phone calls and dinners and the sharing of ideas.
They get to work on the court for the first time Tuesday, when Miami opens camp — the first with Butler on the roster.
Spoelstra says “it was the fit that matters to us. That’s the only thing that counts.”
Butler is a four-time All-Star and Miami raves about what he can do both ends of the floor. Heat President Pat Riley says Butler is one of the 10 best players in the league, and Spoelstra says Butler “will not shy away from big moments. … Jimmy Butler is that kind of player.”
It took a four-team trade to get the deal that brought Butler to Miami done in July. The Heat gave up Josh Richardson (to Philadelphia) and Hassan Whiteside (to Portland) to make it happen.
— Tim Reynolds in Miami
The NBA offseason is now over for everyone.
The vast majority of the league’s media days are taking place Monday, with 23 teams gathering for the season’s first official day of work. The six teams that are headed overseas for preseason games held media days on Friday and Saturday, with the Los Angeles Clippers going on Sunday in advance of their training-camp trip to Hawaii.
Golden State is among the teams having media day Monday, its first formal day of work at the team’s new Chase Center home in San Francisco. NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks also have media day Monday.
Monday also marks the start of the preseason, with Houston playing host to the Shanghai Sharks.
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