SAN ANTONIO — Becky Hammon became the first woman to direct an NBA team, taking over the San Antonio Spurs after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a 121-107 loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
James celebrated his 36th birthday with 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Lakers’ third double-digit victory. The teams will compete the two-game set Friday night.
Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Popovich screamed at Brown and entered the court following a non-call on DeMar DeRozan’s attempted layup and a subsequent attempted rebound by Drew Eubanks. Popovich was applauded as he exited the court by several of the team’s family members in attendance.
Hammon took over the team’s huddles during timeouts and walked the sideline following Popovich’s ejection. Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.
Tim Duncan took over last season when Popovich was ejected against Portland on Nov. 16, 2019. The Hall of Famer opted not to return as assistant this season.
A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as overseas before retiring to join Popovich’s staff in 2014.
The Lakers contributed to Popovich’s frustration and the Spurs’ fortunes didn’t get much better after the veteran coach exited.
Dennis Schroder had 21 points, Anthony Davis had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers. Wesley Matthews was 6 for 6 on 3-pointers in scoring 18 points off the bench.
The Spurs opened the game on a 9-2 run, including an uncontested drive through the lane by Keldon Johnson for a two-handed slam. The Lakers responded with an 11-0 run that promoted a timeout by Popovich.
The Lakers took their first double-digit lead at 35-25 on Kyle Kuzma’s 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.
Dejounte Murray had 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and DeRozan added 23 for the Spurs, who lost their second straight after opening the season with two consecutive wins.
Lakers: PG Alex Caruso missed the game for “health and safety protocols” as mandated by the league. Lakers coach Frank Vogel did not elaborate on Caruso’s status. … James was listed as questionable after spraining his left ankle sprain in the Lakers’ 115-107 loss to Portland on Monday. James played 35 minutes against the Spurs after scoring 29 points in 36 minutes against the Trail Blazers.
Spurs: Popovich said the Spurs will monitor Aldridge’s knee soreness on a day-to-day basis.