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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich surely knows why Tim Duncan, Becky Hammon are Hall of Fame nominees 

Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio

Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs looks on against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

SAN ANTONIO — Nominees for the 2020 inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame were announced on Thursday, and they included Spurs icon Tim Duncan and women’s great Becky Hammon, both of whom are assistants under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who described both as “very deserving for obvious reasons.”

Duncan was a first-time nominee along with such stars as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh. Finalists will be announced All-Star weekend in February in Chicago, and the inductees will be announced in April at the Final Four in Atlanta. Duncan is a lock to make it, but Popovich referred to the Spurs’ 10-16 record before facing the Nets Thursday night at AT&T Center and joked, “I think a lot will have to do with how he does as an assistant. If the record turns around, I’d vote for him.”

In the long run, Hammon’s nomination is most significant because Popovich made her the first female assistant coach in NBA history. “She was, from Day One, an obvious leader,” Popovich said. “She had a lot of competitiveness that just by osmosis filled whatever team she was on, whether foreign or domestic. She commanded respect where she was, and that was what I saw when I’d go see her play here: ‘Whoa, that person is in charge.’ On the court, she played with outstanding skills and competitiveness. She had the whole package.”

Asked about his groundbreaking move to hire her in the NBA, Popovich said, “I didn’t try to make history. I brought here in because she’s a coach, and she’s great. It wasn’t anything to do with male/female…Yes, I was aware she was female.”

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson recalled watching Hammon play for the Liberty in the WNBA. Asked if he can imagine a woman head coach in the NBA, he said, “It’s going to happen. And there’ll be a woman president. It’s just a matter of time. Becky…I still remember when she beat me in Summer League when I was coaching in the semifinals, and it still makes me mad. She outcoached me, no doubt about it. I have a lot of respect for her.”

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