NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Gregg Popovich's Future, Dennis Smith Jr., More
The final game of the NBA preseason has been played, and the focus has turned to the regular season. The 2021-22 campaign is set to get underway Tuesday with a pair of matchups.
The league's 30 teams are in the process of finalizing their rosters, which can lead to some difficult decisions being made. And even though attention will soon be on what's taking place on the court, there's still going to be plenty of news off of it throughout the year.
Here's some of the latest buzz from around the NBA with the new season quickly approaching.
Popovich Getting Close to Retirement?
Gregg Popovich is among the greatest coaches in NBA history. He enters the 2021-22 season with 1,310 regular-season wins, 170 playoff victories, five NBA championships and three NBA Coach of the Year Awards. However, he's also 72, and he isn't going to be coaching forever.
In fact, Popovich may not have much longer with the San Antonio Spurs, who brought him in as their head coach in 1996. According to NBA insider Jordan Schultz, the Spurs are preparing for Popovich to retire within the next one or two years and that the team has "initiated an extensive search—both in-house and externally—into finding Pop's replacement."
San Antonio's next head coach will have huge shoes to fill considering that Popovich took the franchise to a level it hadn't previously been to. He notably led the Spurs to the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, a streak that ended in 2020.
After missing the postseason the past two years, San Antonio will look to get back on track in the 2021-22 campaign. And with it potentially being Popovich's final season, the Spurs will likely want to send him off on a high note.
Smith Will Be on Trail Blazers' Roster to Open Season
After signing with the Portland Trail Blazers in September, Dennis Smith Jr. has apparently made a strong impression on his new team. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Smith will be on Portland's roster to open the 2021-22 season, a choice that was made as the Trail Blazers decided their final cuts.
Over his first four NBA seasons, Smith played for three teams. He had a strong showing as a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks in 2017-18, averaging 15.2 points and 5.2 assists in 69 games to earn a spot on the NBA All-Rookie second team.
However, the 23-year-old Smith hasn't fared quite as well in recent years. In 2020-21, he averaged 6.7 points and 3.3 assists in 23 games with the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons. He then became a free agent and didn't land a deal until signing with the Trail Blazers in September.
Smith could be a valuable role player for Portland, which will be looking to reach the playoffs for the ninth straight season. The Trail Blazers play their opener Wednesday night, when they host the Sacramento Kings.
Grizzlies Not Picking Up Culver's 4th-Year Rookie Option
Since getting drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2019, Jarrett Culver has been traded twice. He never played a game for the Suns, as he was immediately dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves. And after two seasons with the Timberwolves, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in August.
However, it's possible that the 22-year-old isn't in the Grizzlies' long-term plans. According to Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian, Memphis has opted not to pick up Culver's fourth-year rookie option, meaning he will be playing the 2021-22 season on an expiring contract.
Culver hasn't lived up to his potential in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 5.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 34 games for Minnesota, which was a step down from his production during his rookie year.
Considering he will be a free agent next summer, Culver will be looking to prove himself this season. And if he plays well, he could show the Grizzlies, as well as other teams around the league, that he's deserving of a sizable contract.