San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he prefers Adam Silver's leadership to that of United States president Donald Trump.

Popovich was responding to criticism from Trump, who blasted the Spurs coach and Golden State Warriors counterpart Steve Kerr last week for their responses to questions about the NBA-China controversy.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey issued an apology for a now-deleted tweet, that read "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" amid the ongoing protests in the region.

While Popovich and Kerr unwilling to discuss the matter, NBA president Silver drew praise for his response after saying the league was "apologetic" but added that "we are not apologising for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression".

Popovich – who has been critical of Trump in the past – told reporters prior to the Spurs' 123-114 preseason loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday: "[Silver] stood by our nation and its principles. That's pretty huge in these days.

"Sometimes, it's kind of Orwellian. You think we're living in a place where, 'Is this really happening?' But that comparison was pretty stark when you put our president up against those leaders when he's with them or talking to him and how he reacts compared to the way Adam Silver reacted. I was proud of him. It was great."

Asked about Trump's comments, Popovich added: "All I did was make a comparison between Adam Silver's show of principle and courage in a tough situation, as opposed to how our president reacts when in the company of authoritarian figures, whether it's Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia or Turkey, whatever it is.

"It comes off as really feckless, impotent, cowardly by comparison."

United States president Donald Trump blasted Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs boss Gregg Popovich for their responses to questions about the NBA-China controversy.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey issued an apology on Sunday for a now-deleted tweet, that read "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" amid the ongoing protests in the region.

The issue has highlighted the NBA's relationship with China, which Kerr was noncommittal about on Monday when asked about the fallout from Morey.

Kerr and Popovich have been highly critical of Trump in the past and the country's leader was scathing of the NBA coaches.

"I watched this guy, Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy who was so scared to be even answering the question," Trump told reporters Wednesday when asked about Kerr's refusal to discuss the issue.

"He couldn't answer the question. He was shaking. 'Oh, I don't know. I don't know.' He didn't know how to answer the question. And yet he'll talk about the United States very badly."

On Popovich – who was also reluctant to discuss the issue of protests in Hong Kong – Trump said: "I watched Popovich. Sort of the same thing, but he didn't look quite as scared actually.

"But they talk badly about the United States, but when it talks about China, they don't want to say anything bad. I thought it was pretty sad actually. It'll be very interesting."

Trump added: "I watch the way that Kerr and Popovich and some of the others were pandering to China, and yet to our own country, it's like they don't respect it.

"It's like they don't respect it. I said, 'What a difference – isn't it sad?' It's very sad. To me, it's very sad."

Made aware of Trump's comments about Kerr, Warriors superstar Stephen Curry – who has also been critical of the US president – replied: "welcome Steve to the club".

Tim Duncan has returned to the San Antonio Spurs as one of Gregg Popovich's assistant coaches.

Duncan, 43, spent his entire 19-year playing career with the Spurs and retired following the 2015-16 season.

Now he will once again link up with the man who has led the franchise since 1996, with San Antonio bidding to get back to the heights they enjoyed during Duncan's heyday. 

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan's assistant, that he returns the favour,” Popovich said in a press release. 

The NBA summer league is winding down, as the preliminary round of games ends on Thursday.

Only the top eight seeds will advance to a single-elimination tournament set to begin on July 13, so quite a few prospects will have to wait until the preseason begins in October to return to the court.

Some players have surpassed expectations in July while others have not. Success in the summer league does not necessarily translate to the regular season, but let's take a look at who is hot and who is not so far.

 

Hot

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Herro's criticism ahead of the 2019 NBA draft was based on his poor defense and lack of efficiency, despite his reputation as a sharpshooter. The summer league has allowed him to showcase that he has more to offer than shooting, though.

The 6-5 guard initiated the Heat's offense early and often and helped lead the team to a 3-1 record in the preliminary round. He showcased his playmaking ability out of pick-and-roll sets and has averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals.

Herro probably is not close to becoming a primary option for the Heat, especially since Miami already have Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow on board. But Herro's versatility is a good sign.

Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs

Walker had his rookie season derailed by a meniscus tear, but he appears like he is poised to have a great sophomore campaign.

The 6-5 guard entered Thursday tied for first in the summer league in points per game (30.0) and he has been ridiculously efficient. Walker shot 58 per cent from the field in his two appearances.

His team went 2-2, so it is not likely he will play again in the tournament.

The Spurs will have some serious battles in their 2019-20 backcourt, as Walker will compete with the likes of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan for time after playing in just 17 regular season games last season.

Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have found yet another diamond in the rough.

Boucher, 26, has played in 29 regular season games and is routinely dominating the summer league by averaging 22.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest. Toronto have the NBA's reigning Most Improved Player in Pascal Siakam, and Boucher could be up next. 

The 6-10 big man is fresh off a season in which he was crowned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year of the G-League, playing for Toronto 905. He won his second straight NBA title with the Raptors in 2018-19, as he played for the Golden State Warriors in 2017-18.

The departure of Kawhi Leonard could clear space for him to break into Toronto's rotation.

Not

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

New York were initially favoured to win the summer league championship but went an underwhelming 1-3.

Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, averaged 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds but shot 30 per cent from the field with genuine rotation players around him.

The Knicks could be in a lot of trouble if his shooting struggles linger.

Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers

Many felt Portland got a steal when they selected Little with the 25th pick in 2019 but he definitely has some work to do.

The 6-7 wing has tallied 22 minutes per contest through three games. He is averaging 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 33 per cent from the field. 

Little has shown flashes of his athleticism and is still figuring out how to fit in offensively.

Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers

Wade went undrafted after four years at Kansas State, so there were not lofty expectations for him.

However, the Cavaliers have not received much from him in the 27 minutes he has averaged through three games.

The 6-10 forward is averaging 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds but is only shooting 26 per cent from the field. That is a big drop off for a player who was the first option in college and hovered around 50 per cent shooting.

The San Antonio Spurs have re-signed forward Rudy Gay, the team announced on Monday.

The terms of the new contract were disclosed by the Spurs, but The Athletic reported previously the deal would be for two years and $32million.

Gay, who turns 33 in August, is one of two players in the NBA – along with LeBron James – who has at least 15,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 1,000 steals and 500 blocks since he was drafted in 2006.

The 13-year veteran appeared in 69 games last season and averaged 13.7 points with a career-high 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.7 minutes. He also shot career-bests 50.4 per cent from the floor and 40.2 per cent from three-point range.

The new contract marks the third time the unrestricted free agent has signed with the Spurs after originally joining San Antonio in July 2017 and re-signing last year on a reported one-year, $10m deal.

LeBron James made his home debut at Staples Center but it did not go according to plan after the Los Angeles Lakers lost a feisty game against the Houston Rockets. 

San Antonio Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili announced his retirement on Monday after 16 NBA seasons.

The San Antonio Spurs have completed a trade to send disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors. 

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