A Year of ‘What If’ for the N.B.A.


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Gregg Popovich won’t be pleased with this.

I do know, I do know: Popovich made it clear years in the past, in a memorable interview with my outdated pal David Aldridge on TNT, that there isn’t a such factor as happiness for N.B.A. coaches.

Yet I think he could be much more dismayed than regular to listen to me providing up any measure of sympathy after Tuesday’s announcement that this summer time’s Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to 2021.

It had turn into clear that the Games couldn’t go on this 12 months within the midst of our international well being disaster. Popovich, in full “get over yourself” mode, would absolutely notice that the world has a lot greater issues to think about — and that Olympic postponement impacts the athletes excess of the coaches.

Hoop stars, after all, fall far down the listing of athletes hit the toughest. It was swimmers, gymnasts, observe and subject members and all those that have been coaching in sporting disciplines by which Olympic competitors is the head for whom this information was, on many ranges, devastating.

I do really feel for him, although, since Tuesday’s postponement is a big improvement within the basketball area, with all kinds of potential penalties. Although Jerry Colangelo, U.S.A. Basketball’s 80-year-old managing director, stated that he and Popovich, 71, intend to stay of their roles by way of not less than 2021, N.B.A. gamers — and Pop himself — may not even be accessible when the Olympics happen subsequent 12 months.

The N.B.A. calendar, keep in mind, stays an enormous unknown.

Tokyo was purported to be a possibility for Popovich to lastly style triumph after nothing however disappointment in his numerous dalliances with U.S.A. Basketball. In stark distinction to final summer time’s World Cup group in China, which completed a humbling seventh after essentially the most extreme rash of participant withdrawals ever, he was going to have a starry roster in Japan and a transparent shot at a gold medal.

Instead? Mark it down as yet one more deflating entry on his nationwide group résumé, which is the antithesis of the charmed life he is aware of he’s had in San Antonio for nearly a quarter-century.

As a participant in 1972, Popovich was one of many final cuts for the U.S. Olympic group. As an assistant coach on the groups that completed sixth on the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis and settled for bronze on the Athens Olympics in 2004, Popovich was on the bench for what have been broadly thought to be this nation’s two low factors within the trendy period of the worldwide sport. Then got here China, the place Popovich — after ready greater than a decade to lastly function head coach — couldn’t overcome his group’s scarcity of playmaking, capturing and rim projection in his first match after succeeding Mike Krzyzewski.

Good luck predicting now what kind of squad (or teaching employees) can be accessible subsequent 12 months. If it turns into possible for the N.B.A. to restart in June or July, it’s fairly attainable that the start and finish dates of the 2020-21 season can be pushed again and will overlap with the delayed Olympics. So it’s no stretch to say that Olympic basketball itself could face an unsure future — with little urge for food in league circles to spend a lot time on it now when so many home points are unresolved.

I notice the entire above falls underneath the heading of it’s solely sports activities. We’re likewise speaking a few postponement of the 2020 Olympics moderately than an outright cancellation. Seeing what is going on everywhere in the globe, within the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, none of this needs to be handled as tragic.

Yet we’re sports activities followers. Lots of us obsess and anguish over the trivial. My life has revolved round sports activities since I used to be 5 years outdated, and I guess lots of you, like me, should not precisely certain how one can swap that off.

As an unabashed (and overly nostalgic) hoops nerd, I nonetheless discover myself wrapped up in all kinds of Olympic hoops hypotheticals. Will Pop, the previous Air Force cadet, ever expertise one dose of crimson, white and blue glory to go along with all that San Antonio success? Will the Golden State famous person Stephen Curry, who has but to look on the Olympic stage, get that probability sometime? And what about LeBron James? He had not dedicated to play this summer time, however he did acknowledge that “my name is in the hat” when U.S.A.B. introduced a 44-man preliminary roster in February. If, once more, the 2021 Olympics are nonetheless an possibility for N.B.A. gamers, James should be much more cautious, at age 36 and in his 18th season, about overtaxing his physique.

And if I could: I’m additionally inclined to think about my very own father at any time when the patriarch of the San Antonio Spurs comes up. It has been this fashion for me ever since June 15, 2014, when Popovich, Tim Duncan and the Spurs clinched the franchise’s fifth N.B.A. championship with a Game 5 victory over LeBron’s Miami Heat. That identical day — Father’s Day — Reuven Stein succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after a seven-year battle with the most cancers. He was 74.

While nonetheless at ESPN, I wrote a narrative about “The Reuvs” a 12 months after his passing to clarify that Father’s Day had modified for me without end, and to share some tales about his colourful life. He tremendously most popular, for instance, to be known as “Father” moderately than “Dad.” But one anecdote I didn’t embody was how he obsessively implored my brother, Orren, and me to “wash hands.”

“Did you wash hands?”

Children on our road, and all the best way into highschool for me, delighted in razzing us about Mr. Wash Hands and the thick Romanian accent he couldn’t fairly shake despite the fact that his English vocabulary was subsequent degree.

In these unimaginable days, I can’t cease myself from getting wrapped up in these recollections, too.

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You ask; I reply. Every week on this house, I’ll subject three questions posed by way of e mail at marcstein-newsletter@nytimes.com. (Please embody your first and final identify, in addition to town you’re writing in from, and ensure “Corner Three” is within the topic line.)

Q: Before you discuss concerning the Coach of the Year Award, we needs to be speaking about General Manager Sam Presti. He arrange Billy Donovan to achieve a manner few G.M.s might. As a fan, it’s reassuring to see such a balanced group, not one which has simply two superstars and a middling supporting forged like in so a few years previous. — Broc Hite (Rogers, Ark.)

Stein: Presti actually is on a ridiculous run. It’s no thriller why the Clippers gave up a lot for Paul George — what number of different groups would have stated no as soon as they discovered buying George would additionally deliver them Kawhi Leonard? But the value was astronomical. Extracting 5 future first-round picks from the Clippers and a younger participant as gifted as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, with Danilo Gallinari on high of all that, was A++ maneuvering by Presti.

It solely acquired higher for Presti and the Thunder, who had gave the impression to be in a dire state of affairs after George requested a commerce. Presti traded Russell Westbrook to Houston for Chris Paul and two extra future first-round picks and was broadly anticipated to spend the following few months buying and selling away veterans for extra future belongings. The cussed, uber-motivated Paul has as an alternative led the shocking Oklahoma City to a share of fifth place within the West, because of a 40-24 document that matches Houston’s.

Add that every one up and it’s a really sturdy case for the Executive of the Year Award. It’s troublesome to correctly handicap the race amid an indefinite shutdown, however I don’t see any severe threats to Presti past Miami’s Pat Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rob Pelinka — with the obligatory caveat that the executives do their very own voting for this award.

The Clippers face a number of elements that work towards their front-office group even after buying Leonard and George. They are unlikely to earn the West’s No. 1 seed even when regular-season play resumes, they usually have had a totally wholesome roster in solely 11 video games thus far. Further disappointment (and stress) stems from the data that Leonard and George can return to free company after subsequent season, which means that Steve Ballmer and Co. probably gave the Thunder with an unprecedented commerce haul for just one assured playoff run — if the 2020 postseason will get worn out by the coronavirus.

The Lakers’ 64-win tempo and surge to the highest of the West actually give Pelinka a shot, since he traded for Anthony Davis and employed one other main Coach of the Year Award-contender in Frank Vogel. I can be curious to see how a lot credit score Pelinka will get from his voting friends for the Davis commerce given the function that Rich Paul, Davis’s (and LeBron James’s) agent, performed in steering him there.

Riley, who shared the chief trophy for the 2010-11 season with Chicago’s Gar Forman, appears like Presti’s hardest competitors. The Heat actually cooled in 2020 (17-15) after a 24-9 begin to the season, however they’ve been restored to the East’s high 4 sooner than many N.B.A. prognosticators envisioned. That’s all due to Riley and his commerce for Jimmy Butler final summer time within the face of appreciable salary-cap constraints, adopted by the February acquisition of Andre Iguodala in a three-team deal, which additionally shed the undesirable contracts of Dion Waiters and James Johnson.

Q: You’ve labored for various firms inside journalism. — @JaiKai14 from Twitter

Stein: My pal Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports roped me into that 5 jobs/5 tags sport that has been circulating on Twitter lately. This respondent took subject with my itemizing of solely two different jobs earlier than referring to my journalism profession as one job, versus highlighting a few of the particular person stops.

I assumed that the viewers was trying to examine fascinating (or uninteresting) jobs I could have held exterior my present trade moderately than my numerous stops as a sports activities reporter. Maybe I misunderstood the premise of the train, but it surely made little sense to me to easily listing newspapers I labored for within the 1980s and 1990s.

Because I used to be lucky sufficient to get on my eventual profession path so early, I had solely two gigs in my life that didn’t contain information organizations. As lined in my tweet on the matter, I labored as a professional store attendant at a tennis membership, then as an worker in a sporting items retailer, earlier than I used to be capable of absolutely concentrate on journalism on the Orange County Register, the Washington Post and the San Bernardino Sun earlier than ultimately shifting on to N.B.A. jobs on the Los Angeles Daily News, the Dallas Morning News and ESPN.

Q: How’s your quarantine going, sir? — Aditya Baradway (Chennai, India)

Stein: All good — thanks for asking. Hope you and everybody are doing in addition to they feasibly can underneath essentially the most disruptive circumstances I can keep in mind.

Social distancing isn’t an issue for a loner like me, but it surely’s actually a significant adjustment to spend a lot time within the home workplace for somebody accustomed to touring — and somebody who does loads of writing in espresso retailers and eating places even when at home. But I wouldn’t dare complain.

I’m with my spouse and two boys day by day amid essentially the most severe worldwide disaster of my lifetime. Covering the N.B.A. is a dream job, however my sons are each youngsters and work travel has meant lacking a lot that I can by no means get again. As scary and unsettling as this pandemic is, day by day with them is treasured.


San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich stays 64 wins shy of exceeding his good pal Don Nelson’s N.B.A. document of 1,335 victories as a coach. The Spurs, whose league-record run of 22 consecutive playoff appearances is in jeopardy, entered the N.B.A.’s hiatus in 12th place within the West at 27-36, 4 video games out of a playoff spot behind Memphis (32-33).


Seven groups can declare a plus/minus score of not less than +10 within the standings, which is calculated by subtracting a group’s complete home losses from its complete highway wins. The Bucks lead the league at +22, adopted by the Lakers (+18), Raptors (+14), Clippers (+12), Celtics (+11), Nuggets (+10) and Jazz (+10).


The Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson is on the right track to interrupt the league document for single-season field-goal proportion, with 74.2. The present document is Wilt Chamberlain’s 72.7 for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972-73 — and you’ll rely Robinson amongst these curious about how the league plans to handle document e-book issues if the coronavirus disaster prevents the season from resuming.


Dallas’ Seth Curry, capturing 45.Three p.c from 3-point vary this season, has moved into the highest spot in profession 3-point proportion amongst energetic gamers at 44.3 — nearly a full proportion level forward of his older brother. Golden State’s Stephen Curry (43.5 p.c) has slipped to 3rd on that listing — behind Seth and Miami’s Duncan Robinson (43.8).


It’s solely truthful to level out that Stephen Curry, who has performed in simply 5 video games for the Warriors this season, has tried 5,739 3-pointers in his profession — 4,753 greater than his youthful brother’s 986. The Heat’s Robinson, in his second N.B.A. season, has simply 578 profession makes an attempt.