How much abuse should a professional player be willing to take from a fan?

By March 12, 2019
Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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  • Gregg Popovich is the San Antonio Spurs – Coles hails legendary NBA coach Gregg Popovich is the San Antonio Spurs – Coles hails legendary NBA coach

    When the San Antonio Spurs are mentioned, it is hard not to think about Gregg Popovich. Such has been his impact on the NBA franchise.

    With five championships since arriving at the Spurs in 1996, Popovich is one of the most successful head coaches in the league's history – a haul only bettered by Red Auerbach (9) and Phil Jackson (11).

    While the Spurs last won the NBA Finals in 2014, Popovich has brought annual consistency to San Antonio with a record 22 consecutive playoff appearances.

    Phil Coles knows Popovich better than most. The Australian was handpicked to join the 70-year-old's staff as high-performance manager following San Antonio's championship in 2014.

    Asked how big of a role Popovich has played in San Antonio's success, Coles told Omnisport: "Maybe the biggest, along with the general manager [R.C. Buford].

    "The two of those guys have been the constants in the team's period success. Twenty-two successive years of playoffs - It's phenomenal. Those two have been that stability throughout the period. They started that period with David Robinson and bringing in Tim Duncan to have the Twin Towers that got them their initial success.

    "They transitioned that into the Big Three with Duncan, Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker] and they've now transitioned beyond the Big Three with LaMarcus [Aldridge] and so on this year. They've continued to achieve success. To be able to transfer that through three different eras of great players and never go through any real rebuilding period, never miss the playoffs, you have to give the credit to Pop and RC. They've provided stability and set the culture at the club.

    "Pop obviously more directly with the players and media but RC equally behind the scenes in terms of recruitment, the process-driven nature he has and open-mindedness. Those two together are the Spurs. You can't take anything away from the key talent they've had along the way too. They've been attracted to the culture set by those two."

    As well as being one of the best coaches to ever work in the NBA, Popovich is also one of the most entertaining. His personality separates him from the rest.

    His funny and often direct exchanges with the media have left a lasting impression. Popovich – who replaced Bob Hill in 1996 – has never had an issue in speaking his mind on an array of topics.

    Coles, who left the Spurs in 2018 for Australia's national football team, added: "He is exactly like he presents. He's very genuine and brutally honest at times. Very passionate and emotional. He puts character of the people he is working with and managing at the forefront.

    "While he is one of the most driven people I've ever met in terms of trying to ensure success, he doesn't put that above the needs of any individual and he constantly reminds people of that and that there's more important things in life.

    "While everyone in that organisation works at a 100 per cent capacity, no one does it putting success above individual values. He had a great knack of doing that with players. Improving the character of people and ensuring people are happy and healthy and enjoying the life they have."

    During his four years in San Antonio, Coles was fortunate to work with the "Big Three" – Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

    Four-time NBA champion, 2007 Finals MVP and six-time All-Star Parker ended his 18-year career – 17 of those with the Spurs before joining the Charlotte Hornets last season – earlier this month.

    "TP was incredibly dedicated," Coles, who also worked as Liverpool's head of physical therapy, said. "Obviously had a unique skill set that he was luckily enough to be born with to a certain extend but he made the most of it through his dedication.

    "The best example of Parker is late in his career he had a significant injury that only one player had previously come back to play in the NBA.

    "At his age and given a lot of his game involved speed, agility and power which were a big part of his elite performance, there's very few players who would've had the determination and work ethic to go through a 6-9-month rehab and come back.

    "The amazing thing about TP was his dedication through that period was incredible, but he was able to come back at the age of 35 and his physical metrics were the same or better than prior to the injury. You can't give him a better testament than that. Despite being a super star of the game, he was so open to work with. He literally did everything required to the letter and it was fantastic."

  • Lakers should re-sign D'Angelo Russell – Magic Johnson Lakers should re-sign D'Angelo Russell – Magic Johnson

    Magic Johnson believes the Los Angeles Lakers should consider re-signing D'Angelo Russell from the Brooklyn Nets.

    Russell spent his first two seasons in Los Angeles after being drafted with the second pick in 2015, before he was traded to the Nets in 2017 by Johnson and the Lakers. 

    The 23-year-old guard earned his first All-Star appearance in 2018-19 as he led the Nets to the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15.

    However, Russell – who will be a restricted free agent and the Nets can match any other sheet he signs with another team – "may be open" to returning to the Lakers according to reporters.

    Johnson, who stepped down as the Lakers' president of basketball operations in April, feels a reunion would be good for both sides.

    "He's better now," Johnson told The Athletic. "He's a different player. He's more mature."

    The Nets are expected to pursue Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving, which may make Russell expendable. The Lakers also reportedly have interest in Irving as they prepare to finalise a trade for New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis.

    Russell averaged a career-high 21.1 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 36.9 per cent from three-point range in 81 games in 2018-19.

    The Nets exceeded expectations last season by making it to the postseason. They were topped by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in their first-round series.

    "If we're being completely honest, I enjoyed the team that we had this whole season," Russell told The New York Post about free agency earlier this month. "I'm not going to say I didn't enjoy our team, and the pieces we had around."

    Russell is more likely to think about signing with the Lakers because of Johnson's resignation, according to Bleacher Report.

    The guard has also been linked to the Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns, amongst others.

    Los Angeles are also expected to pursue Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard, amongst others.

  • Knicks will 'do everything' to attract free agents, says president Mills Knicks will 'do everything' to attract free agents, says president Mills

    New York Knicks president Steve Mills said the NBA franchise will do "everything we can to attract free agents" amid links to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

    Golden State Warriors star Durant and Irving of the Boston Celtics have both emerged as targets in the upcoming free agency period.

    While the Knicks have cap space to entice star names, New York – who have not made the playoffs since 2012-13 – are only focused on retaining players who are committed to building toward success.

    "We're going to do everything we can to try to attract free agents, as long as they're the guys that buy into what we're trying to do as an organisation," Mills told The Undefeated on Tuesday.

    While New York have two max slots that could be filled by All-Star calibre players, Mills insisted this was not the initial plan.

    "Our plan wasn't to create $70million in room to go after free agents this summer," Mills said. "Our plan was to organically build this team through teamwork, drafting well, getting high-character guys that want to compete. The [salary cap] space was a by-product of that. If the right guys are there for us, great, because we still have all the young pieces and draft picks to move forward.

    "And if they're not, we're going to keep building our plan, drafting our guys, playing well and potentially being trade partners. We feel really good about where we are going."

    The Knicks drafted Duke's RJ Barrett with the third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and have promising young assets in Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Mitchell Robinson.

    But they traded away star big man Kristaps Porzingis in February and missed out on a chance to land New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis, who has reportedly been moved to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The Knicks finished with a league-worst 17-65 record last season and were not able to land top prospect Zion Williamson, so failure to upgrade their roster could lead to more suffering in 2019-20.

    Durant and Irving are reportedly interested in teaming up and the Brooklyn Nets are in contention to land the duo. Nevertheless, the Knicks are looking for players with drive who want to bring glory back to Madison Square Garden.

    "The opportunity to put a banner in that building? You're not a competitor if you don't want that," Knicks head coach David Fizdale said.

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