Becky Hammon: Don’t hire me to check a box


LAS VEGAS—Becky Hammon can’t wait for the time when it’s normal for women to interview for head coaching positions in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and their gender isn’t the story.

“It’s huge and important. It’s something that can’t be [checking] the box,” the Spurs assistant told The Associated Press. “You have to hire the best person. Half the world’s population hasn’t been tapped for their mind and ability and skill sets in the sports world. It’s something that needs to change.”

Hammon is entering her eighth season as an assistant and has been interviewed for several head coach openings but hasn’t gotten an offer to be the first woman to lead a NBA team.

“There’s 30 jobs and they are incredibly hard to get,” Hammon said in a recent phone interview. “When I saw there are 30 jobs, not all 30 are available, so I’m really talking about three or four and they are really hard to get.”

While Hammon would love to be the first, she hopes it’s for the right reasons.

“Please don’t hire me to check a box. That’s the worst thing you can do for me,” she said. “Hire me because of my skill sets and coaching, who am I as a person, hire me for those.”

Hammon was a finalist for the Portland Trail Blazers job, which went to Chauncey Billups.

“I can’t speak for organizations across the league and the whole sports world. I can tell you they were asking me legitimate coaching questions,” the 44-year-old said. “When you get to this level, you’ve got to hire the best person for the job and the person who fits your organization the best.”

Hammon spoke from Las Vegas, where she was watching the NBA summer league, but her eyes went to Phoenix, the site of the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup championship game between Seattle and Connecticut, which will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

“It’s a really good idea. Another opportunity for people to see these women compete at the highest level,” she said. “It’s not foreign to women playing overseas. The WNBA players are used to it.”

She played in a few cup championships while competing overseas during the winters.

“They are always fun, always bonuses in everyone’s contract. That was overseas,” she said. “Put a little something extra on the line.”

While Hammon is excited about the game, not all the players are thrilled by the timing. Five of the Storm’s players were at the Tokyo Olympics, including stars Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird, who helped the US win a seventh consecutive gold medal.

“Obviously it’s not the best for us,” Stewart said in Tokyo. “We’ll see what happens.”


KAWHI LEONARD is staying in Los Angeles after the Clippers re-signed their free-agent superstar on Thursday.

Leonard averaged 26 points, 6.8 rebounds and five assists in his first two seasons with his hometown team.

He suffered a partially torn right ACL during the playoffs and missed the Clippers’ first Western Conference finals appearance. Leonard had surgery on his knee a month ago. The team has said there’s no timetable for his return, and it’s possible he could miss a good portion of the upcoming season while rehabbing.

Leonard declined his $36 million option last week, setting up his ability to sign a maximum contract worth 35 percent of the team’s salary cap and allowing him to earn upwards of $3 million more for the 2021-22 season.

By re-signing Leonard, the Clippers are guaranteed to have him and Paul George in the fold for the next few seasons. George signed a maximum contract extension last December. Leonard is from nearby Moreno Valley, and Paul is from Palmdale, north of Los Angeles.

The five-time All-Star averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and a career-high 5.2 assists last season, while shooting 51 percent from the field and 88 percent from the line. He was named to his seventh All-Defensive team and his third All-NBA first team last season.

Leonard was even better in the postseason. He averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 11 games. He first got injured in Game Four of the Clippers’ second-round series against the Utah Jazz. He was held out of the last eight postseason games, including the Clippers’ 4-2 loss to the Phoenix Suns in the West finals.

He still had a presence around the team, despite being unable to play.

“Kawhi is a transcendent player and a relentless worker who improves himself every day,” said Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations. “We share many of the same goals, which include a long-term relationship.”

Frank said the Clippers will “do whatever we can” to support Leonard in his injury rehab.

“We look forward to seeing him back where he wants to be, on the court with his teammates,” Frank said.

Leonard joined George, Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard courtside to watch the Clippers’ rookies in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas this week. Leonard wasn’t wearing a brace on his right leg. AP

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