Becky Hammon may have left the San Antonio Spurs to coach the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces but if the first half of their season is anything to go by, you can't take the Spurs out of Hammon.
In her first season at the helm of the Aces, the team jumped out to a 6-1 start in their first seven games and currently owns a record of 18-8 as of this writing. That's 1.5 games behind the defending WNBA Champions, the Chicago Sky.
While the Aces have been in contention for a WNBA Championship for the past few seasons, it feels like 2022 may be their best chance to win it all and much of that is due to Hammon, or perhaps more accurately, Hammon's time with San Antonio.
Remember, when the Spurs hired her as the first full-time female assistant coach in 2014, Hammon said she would be like a sponge soaking up information and making the most out of her opportunities to learn under Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Hammon got the chance to learn from argubily the best coach in basketball in Popovich and even took over for the legendary coach when he was ejected in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2020. So how has Pop's teachings and Hammon's time in San Antonio helped her with the Aces?
Hammon is adapting the beautiful game
Popovich has always preached that ball movement is key to the success of the Spurs winning on the court and Hammon has preached that same thing in Vegas. The Aces are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to moving the basketball.
Las Vegas is averaging 20.8 assists per game, second behind only Chicago, who leads the league with 24 assists per game. Chelsea Gray has the most on the team with 6.5 assists per game and Kelsey Plum is right behind her with 5.5 while also being the team's leading scorer with 20.8 points per game.
That ball movement has helped Las Vegas keep their opponents defense on its heels, leading to open shots and a frustrating defense for the opponents. As the Aces open the second half of the season, they will need to work on being consistent when it comes to moving the basketball.
Adapting to a new style
It is no secret that Gregg Popovich hates 3-pointers. In fact, he said as much back in 2015.
"I'll never embrace it. I don't think it's basketball," he said at the time. "I think it's kind of like a circus sort of thing. Why don't we have a 5-point shot? A 7-point shot? You know, where does it stop, that sort of thing."
Since then, the NBA has changed and Popovich had to adapt, telling his teams more recently to shoot more threes. In today's NBA, the 3-pointer is like gold -- the more you hit, the better your chances are of winning.
By far, Hammon's biggest influence on the court has been the Aces' 3-point shooting. In 2022, they have increased their shooting from beyond the arc by 28 percent, becoming one of the top 3-point teams in the WNBA, shooting 45.7 percent. That's second to only, you guessed it, the Chicago Sky, who leads the league in threes at 47.9 percent.
Hammon doesn't take any BS
Lastly, Hammon has taken a page out of Popovich's book on how to be a successful coach by not allowing her team to settle or make any excuses.
After her team suffered a 102-71 blowout loss to the Minnesota Lynx on the road, Hammon was asked about her team's performance and refused to make any excuses for what happened on the court.
"It's ridiculous," she said in her postgame press conference. "They [Minnesota] played harder, much harder. They played hard and played smarter. So they win."
Anyone who has covered the San Antonio Spurs knows Popovich has used the term "appropriate fear" and now Hammon is using that in Las Vegas with her team, teaching them that any opponent, no matter their record or situation, can beat you on any given night.
"You gotta know how to respond after a win. We didn't handle the win the other night with the appropriate fear and the appropriate level of effort that it was going to take to come in and beat a team in back-to-back scenario.""- Las Vegas Aces Head Coach Becky Hammon
So if the Las Vegas Aces are fortunate enough to capture their first WNBA Championship later this year, the Aces and their fans may have to thank Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Without her time in San Antonio, Hammon may not be in the position she is now.