It is odd for an athlete to see a season-ending injury as a blessing, but that is what San Antonio Stars guard Becky Hammon has done after she suffered a torn ACL last year. She has admitted that it was tough to watch from the sidelines, but said her injury was “actually a big blessing in disguise.”
After the most disappointing season in her career, Hammon sat down with Stars head coach Dan Hughes and told him what he already knew: after she retires she wants to become a coach. Hughes knew the perfect man for his player to learn from.
The injury meant months of rehabilitation for the 14-year WNBA veteran, but when she wasn’t rehabbing her knee or working on building up her strength for the upcoming season, she was sitting in on practice with the San Antonio Spurs and has been learning from head coach Gregg Popovich.
Both Popovich and Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford appreciate Hammon’s basketball I.Q. and skill level, so they invited her to spend as much time as she wanted with the coaching staff this season. During her time with the Spurs, Hammon has done it all, she even participated in staff meetings and video sessions.
Popovich is known for having a straight-to-business attitude and how can we forget his brief sideline interviews? His knowledge of the game has the Spurs at the top of the league and brought four NBA championships to San Antonio. He doesn’t have the friendliest coaching style, but Hammon didn’t expect anything different because what you see is what you get.
“They obviously have a couple championships,” Hammon told WNBA.com. “To me, the Spurs just play the game the way it’s supposed to be played with the movement and the cutting and stuff like that. So to me, I really love watching them play. Some people think they’re boring, I think that some of the cutting and the passing that they do is exceptional. And they win, so you can’t argue with that.”
Hammon and the Stars share Pop’s “straight-to-business attitude” and that is just one of the many things that is shared between the two franchises. The Stars run some of the same plays that the Spurs do and Hughes has worked with Popovich in the past.
But not even Popovich could be successful without healthy players. The Spurs have suffered numerous injuries this season and went on a mini three-game losing streak in the process. However, the NBA-best Spurs overcame it and Hammon expects to do the same.
Hammon has spent most of her time making sure her body (mostly her knee) was in good enough shape for the upcoming WNBA season.
“The first five months it’s just a lot of strength training,” Hammon said. These little muscles that you never think to train and just getting confidence in the knee. I’ve been working on jumping and just trying to get those muscles to bounce back and respond. But now I’ll get back on the court and start getting comfortable in the brace and what that feels like getting hit. You know, you can be cleared to play but it doesn’t really mean that you’re ready to play that’s two different things.”
When the Spurs end the regular season on April 16, Hammon will take what she learned from Popovich and the Spurs and use it on the court in another season for the Stars. Sophia Young also suffered a season-ending knee injury for San Antonio, but with both back on track, the future of the Stars is very bright.
“I feel really good about the players we have,” Hammon said, “the experience they got last year. Bring in the people that were injured, at least if we just stay healthy we’ll have as good a shot as anybody. It’s a tough league, it’s gotten better, it keeps getting better, so now it’s just a matter of getting the pieces to gel as quickly as possible and staying healthy.”
I’m pretty sure Popovich and the Spurs would agree with that.