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Women are having a greater impact on NBA than ever before

Thu Oct 17 2:28am ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Players: Gordon Hayward, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Frank Jackson, Carsen Edwards

Practice is over and Boston Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson is still working.

She stands under the basket rebounding and giving feedback to rookie guard Carsen Edwards as he shoots from different spots on the court. After swishing his final three attempts he jogs over to her.

''Thanks, coach,'' Edwards says before exchanging a high-five with Lawson.

Welcome to the new-look NBA, in which women's footprints are directly impacting every aspect of the game - from broadcasting booths, to officiating, coaching on the sidelines, front-office executives to ownership.

Lawson is one of a record 11 women serving as assistant coaches in the NBA this season. While former WNBA star Swin Cash and Sue Bird are working in NBA front offices.

''It's not a fad,'' said Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. ''It's opportunities going to very accomplished women who have given their life to the game.''

While it may not be a fad, it is a recent trend.

Lieberman remembers a time when the presence of women was hard to spot, or at best found only behind the scenes.

The 61-year-old - who has broken barriers as a player, as a coach in the WNBA, head coach in NBA G League and in the NBA as assistant - learned quickly that building relationships was the skeleton key to erasing gender hurdles and opening opportunities in the league. That, along with an occasional assist from forward thinking men like former coach Don Nelson, who in 2009 hired her as the head coach of the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks' G League affiliate.

Several have continued Nelson's vision, including San Antonio Spurs Greg Popovich, who made Becky Hammon the NBA's first full-time assistant in 2014; current Mavericks' coach Rick Carlisle (he hired Jenny Boucek as assistant in 2017) and the Sacramento Kings organization, which has been responsible for hiring three women as assistants (Lieberman, Boucek and Lindsay Harding). Even the BIG3, spearheaded by founder and entertainer Ice Cube, is helping normalize the idea of women leading men, Lieberman said.

''I remember Donnie did an interview and he said, `Maybe the best man for the job isn't a man at all.' He had a list of criteria he wanted to hit for his head coach. And I hit those,'' Lieberman said.

The women who have broken into the NBA ranks are garnering respect from players for their experience and basketball knowledge.

Celtics guard Gordon Hayward said Lawson has already made her presence felt.

''She's been good as far as just the experience she has as a basketball player,'' Hayward said. ''Reading the game and kind of little things she sees coaching on the sideline. Having somebody that well-versed in basketball, that experience is good.''

Earlier this month, Wizards assistant Kristi Toliver was on the court helping the Mystics win their first WNBA championship. On the sideline, Washington NBA All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal were wearing the Wizard assistant's WNBA jersey and dancing from the stands .

NBA players are treating the feedback from Toliver and the other women in the league with the same reverence they give their male counterparts.

''The biggest thing I learned is to share your voice and what you've learned,'' Toliver said. ''Doing that has helped me communicate with my guys.''

Toliver is in a unique salary situation since she coaches for the Washington Wizards and plays for the Washington Mystics - both owned by same franchise. She was only paid about $10,000 with the Wizards last year because of WNBA salary cap rules. WNBA teams can only pay all their players a combined $50,000 in offseason to supplement pay and Washington only had $10,000 left to pay Toliver.

There are no such hiccups in New Orleans, where Pelicans guard Frank Jackson said he always expected to benefit from Cash and Teresa Weatherspoon, who was hired as a New Orleans assistant this season.

''They were ballers,'' Jackson said. ''They were good at their craft and I've taken a lot from both of them. ... I've always had open eyes and open ears to anyone who plays this game.''

The 21-year-old Jackson knows of the women's exploits because he has witnessed it firsthand. And he is not alone. The WNBA has been around since most players were teenagers, and is older than others; the league was launched in 1996.

''As the years go on, they're going to get more and more recognition,'' said Jackson, in his third year out of Duke. ''Girls can hoop, too. ... I just think as times change, you'll see more and more.''

Cash believes the NBA is realizing having more women is important to growing the league's overall brand, business and bottom line.

''The reality is and the statistics prove it, is that having women included in your business helps you get more inclusion, helps you get the diversity you need,'' she said. ''Diversity of thought, not just Black, White, Asian, Latino, whatever.''

Stephanie Ready, a former assistant in the then D-League, said a big factor in the opportunities women are getting are coming because the younger generation of NBA executives, such as 76ers general manager Elton Brand. She said the new crop of hiring managers are doing a better job of recognizing what women bring to the table and as the older generation retires, it will get even better.

''Some people will age out,'' said Ready, one of the first women to be a men's assistant on the collegiate level with Coppin State and a former broadcaster with the Charlotte Hornets who now currently covers the NBA for TNT and Yahoo. ''By that I mean the old regime of men who thought that only men could do these jobs.''

Richard Lapchick, who tracks racial and gender hiring numbers for the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, has long lauded the NBA as being the leader in gender hiring practices. He credits the leadership of Commissioner Adam Silver, who said the league needed to increase the number women coaches and referees in the NBA.

Along with the record number of female assistants, five women referees will be working NBA games this upcoming season.

Lapchick also believes the NBA will soon have its female head coach. Whether that is Hammon in San Antonio remains to be seen. But whoever it is, Lapchick said the move would go a long way in putting even more women in position to make basketball decisions.

''I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen before the next season,'' he said, ''or during the next season.''

Player Notes
Frank Jackson Nov 17 6:30pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans point/shooting guard Frank Jackson will be absent for the first time this season during Sundays contest against the Golden State Warriors due to a left neck contusion. Jackson, who started Saturdays game due to the teams myriad injuries, has carved out a role as a reserve during the early part of the year, averaging 10.3 points per game in just 17.4 minutes on a nightly basis. With both Jackson and Lonzo Ball out of the mix, expect Jrue Holiday to see a hefty workload as the teams primary ball-handler. Jacksons next chance to return to action comes Tuesday against Portland.

JJ Redick Nov 17 6:20pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard J.J. Redick has been given the green light to make his return for Sundays game against the Golden State Warriors. Redick missed the teams previous contest due to a toe sprain but will be able to make his return after having been questionable heading into Sunday. With teammates Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram out of the mix due to injury, expect Redick to retain slightly increased value, having rattled off 15 made three-pointers over his past three outings.

Danuel House Jr. Nov 17 6:00pm ET

Houston Rockets small forward Danuel House has been absent from each of his teams previous three contests, but has been tagged as probable to return to the fold Monday versus the Portland Trail Blazers. With Eric Gordon sidelined for the foreseeable future, House is likely to see an increased allotment of both minutes and three-point looks, making him a legitimate fantasy option in any sized league. Ben McLemore appears set to shift back to a bench role, although he will still retain value as a potential leader of the teams second unit.

Clint Capela Nov 17 6:00pm ET

Houston Rockets center Clint Capela is listed as probable to suit up for Mondays game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Capela has missed each of his teams two previous outings due to a concussion, leaving Tyson Chandler to start in his stead and Isaiah Hartenstein to see chunks of playing time off the bench. Barring a last-minute change of heart, it appears that Capela will make his return and likely see a full allotment of minutes. Prior to his injury, he had reeled off five consecutive double-doubles.

Domantas Sabonis Nov 17 5:50pm ET

Indiana Pacers power forward/center Domantas Sabonis has been listed as questionable to participate in Mondays contest versus the Brooklyn Nets due to a bruised right hip. Sabonis has missed two games earlier in the year with the frontcourt just having returned to full strength Saturday with Myles Turner back in the mix. An absence from Sabonis would likely see TJ Leaf enter the starting five and carry some value as a DFS punt play. Check back closer to tip-off to see if Sabonis is able to give it a go.

Malcolm Brogdon Nov 17 5:50pm ET

Indiana Pacers point/shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon has been ruled out for Mondays game versus the Brooklyn Nets due to lower back soreness. Brogdon absence Saturday paved the way for Aaron Holiday to enter the starting five, with the second-year guard likely to be a highly sought after DFS commodity Monday with Brogdon out of the mix again. It has been a breakout year for the Pacers new ball-handler, having averaged 19.2 points and 8.2 assists per contest through his first 12 games. He will have ample time to rest up before his next chance at returning Saturday against Orlando.

Kyrie Irving Nov 17 5:10pm ET

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has already missed one contest due to a right shoulder impingement and he is now in danger of missing a second consecutive game Monday versus the Indiana Pacers due to the ailment, having earned a questionable designation. Bench ace Spencer Dinwiddie entered the starting five in his place Saturday and led the team with 24 points, a role he would likely retain should Irving sit against Indiana. Even if Irving is cleared to participate, he faces a tough matchup against a Pacers squad that is allowing the fewest DFS points per game to opposing point guards this season. Check back closer to tip-off to get an update on his status.

Will Barton Nov 17 5:00pm ET

Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (groin) is expected to suit up for Sunday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies. He was listed as questionable on the injury report, but it sounds like he's going to play. Fantasy owners will have to wait until closer to tip-off to see if Barton does suit up. Michael Porter Jr. would benefit without Barton on the floor.

Mitchell Robinson Nov 17 5:00pm ET

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (ankle) is listed as probable for Monday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He recently returned from a concussion, but is now banged up again. He was able to stay in Saturday's game despite the ankle issue, but fantasy owners should be prepared in case Robinson sits out. Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson would benefit if Robinson is forced to miss time.

Thomas Bryant Nov 17 5:00pm ET

Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant (hip) has been upgraded to probable for Sunday's game against the Orlando Magic. He was listed as questionable due to hip soreness, but it appears he's going to play through it. Moritz Wagner has been playing well lately and could steal a few minutes from Bryant. Otherwise, fantasy owners should feel safe about using Bryant on Sunday.

Derrick Favors Nov 17 4:50pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans forward Derrick Favors (back) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors. He left Saturday's game after playing just eight minutes due to back spasms. There's a chance that Favors misses multiple games because of this issue. Jahlil Okafor (ankle) has already been ruled out for Sunday's contest. Jaxson Hayes and Nicolo Melli should see heavy minutes and are worth looking at as streaming options for Sunday.

Lonzo Ball Nov 17 4:50pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (groin) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors. Ball has been out basically all week due to a groin issue. Josh Hart (knee, ankle) has been ruled out, while Frank Jackson (neck) is questionable for this one. Kenrich Williams should benefit the most without Ball available on Sunday. He'll be worth looking at as a streaming option against the Warriors.

Brandon Ingram Nov 17 4:50pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (knee) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors. He's dealing with knee soreness, so hopefully it's just going to be a few game absence. The Pelicans are really banged up right now, so E'Twaun Moore, Kenrich Williams, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be asked to pick up big minutes on Sunday. All of these players could be worth a look as a streaming option for Sunday.

Frank Jackson Nov 17 4:40pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans guard Frank Jackson (neck) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors. He left Saturday's game due to a neck contusion in the first quarter. E'Twaun Moore, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kenrich Williams should be very busy with the Pelicans banged up. Williams is the best DFS option out of the trio.

Josh Hart Nov 17 4:40pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart (ankle, knee) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors. He's going to miss his third straight game due to nagging knee and ankle issues. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, E'Twaun Moore and Kenrich Williams will all see big minutes. Both Alexander-Walker and Williams should be reliable fantasy options with the Pelicans full of injuries on Sunday.

Jahlil Okafor Nov 17 4:40pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors. He's missed a few games due to a left ankle sprain, but hopefully can be back soon. Jaxson Hayes and Nicolo Melli will likely be asked to play heavy minutes with Derrick Favors (back) doubtful to suit up. Both players are worth looking at as streaming options with the Pelicans banged up.

Malcolm Brogdon Nov 17 4:30pm ET

Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon (groin) is listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Brooklyn Nets. Brogdon missed Saturday's game due to a sore back. Justin Holiday jumped into the starting lineup because of it. Aaron Holiday should see more minutes as well without Brogdon available. Fantasy owners will need to check back after shootaround.

Jeremy Lamb Nov 17 4:30pm ET

Indiana Pacers guard/forward Jeremy Lamb (ankle) is listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Brooklyn Nets. Lamb has missed almost two weeks due to a left ankle sprain. He's been ramping up activities during practice, but we'll see if he's able to suit up on Monday. Otherwise, Aaron Holiday would start in his place again and be worth a look as a streaming option.

Jonathan Isaac Nov 17 4:30pm ET

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Washington Wizards. He was limited to non-contact work during Saturday's practice, so the Magic will be cautious here. Al Farouq-Aminu will start again and is worth a look as a streaming option for Sunday.

Brook Lopez Nov 17 12:10pm ET

Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez scored 15 points on 60 percent shooting from the field with eight rebounds, one triple, a steal, and five blocks in his team's 102-83 victory over the Indiana Pacers. It was Lopez' third game this year with at least five blocks, giving him a career-high average of 2.3 through 12 games. Unfortunately, he hasn't held up his end of the bargain on offense, shooting just 28.6 percent from deep after a career-high 36.5 percent last year. If he can continue to be a defensive stalwart and up his efficiency from three, Lopez could again be a great value pick in fantasy.