Spurred on: Popovich craves teaching time with a young team


NEW YORK (AP) — Gregg Popovich had ample time for a nice New York dinner, as long as a gut-wrenching…

NEW YORK (AP) — Gregg Popovich had ample time for a nice New York dinner, as long as a gut-wrenching loss didn’t ruin his appetite.

Coronavirus-caused changes to the NBA schedule moved up San Antonio’s game in Brooklyn on Sunday from a night to a noon tip. That left all evening for wine and unwinding at a restaurant in one of his favorite cities before another game against the Knicks the next day.

He still loves New York, though virus rules and regulations limit how much he can enjoy it now.

“Not as much as usual, just like I’m sure New Yorkers aren’t enjoying it as much as usual,” Popovich said. “But it’s been fun to be here. It always is.”

Just like New York is no longer the same, neither are the Spurs.

The 121-119 loss to the Nets was the kind of defeat his team racks up these days. The Spurs often pulled out games like those when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were on the floor, but it’s a different story when young players now stand in their place.

After five championships during a run of 22 straight postseason appearances, the Spurs could be staring at a third straight season out of the playoffs. They headed home with a 15-25 record after going 1-6 on their trip that ended with a 111-96 loss to the Knicks on Monday.

In his 26th season with the Spurs, it’s not the winning that Popovich misses. It’s the teaching and team-building time that’s so hard to find during another season altered by the virus.

“I never got too excited about the winning and I never got too down about any losses,” Popovich said. “You’d rather win than lose, but it was never really the priority in how you lived your life or conducted yourself. We enjoyed the teaching, the camaraderie as much as anything. The airplanes, the buses, being with a great group of guys.

“This group entails, or requires, more teaching, but with COVID we’re having a hard time finding those moments to be able to do that. So I’d say frustrating is a word that applies. But being able to have a group that’s hungry and you can teach is a different kind of enjoyment than watching Timmy help us win, because he never listened to me anyway. He just did what he wanted to do, so I didn’t have to do a whole lot. I just came, I had a front-row seat.”

Now, he’s putting together lineups with guys he barely knows. The Spurs finished their trip with six players in health and safety protocols, including Keldon Johnson, who won a gold medal playing for Popovich in last year’s Olympics.

Rookie Josh Primo, who just turned 19, finished the trip in the starting lineup but will be spending what Popovich said is needed time in the NBA G League once the sidelined players are back. Devontae Cacok, who Popovich previously knew little about beyond that he played for the G League affiliate, impressed with his tenacity.

But opposing teams don’t focus on the players. They look over at Popovich and expect the same tough test the Spurs always were.

“I know they don’t got big names and they haven’t been at that level the last couple of years, but that’s just the culture they have over there. That’s what Pop created,” Nets star Kevin Durant said.

The Spurs successfully forced the ball out of Durant’s hands on the Nets’ final possession Sunday, which thrilled Popovich. But they allowed Cam Thomas to catch Durant’s pass moving into the lane for the winning shot, the kind of mistake rebuilding teams make.

“It’s a game of mistakes,” Popovich said. “That’s why the scores aren’t 8-6. And those kinds of mistakes you just hope happen less and less as time goes on. But the tough part of this season for everybody, especially young teams, is no practices, no shootarounds. So it’s kind of tough to get that across.”

He’ll keep trying and is confident the tough losses are going to turn into wins. The road has been rough, but Popovich has no complaints.

Well, maybe just one. Playing the Nets and Knicks on the same trip is nice, just not when there’s no days off in between.

“I would like it, but I would like them to be spaced so I could go to dinner another night. The back-to-back kind of hurts the dinner thing. I’m being honest,” Popovich said.

“But it’s one of the enjoyable things about the NBA. You get to travel, they fly you for free, they get you a room. I mean, what could be better? You go to all these cities. This year it’s a little tougher, but in general it’s been great.”

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Chauncey Billups: Damian Lillard Won’t Travel With Team On Road Trip


Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian LIllard will rest his injured abdomen while his teammates head off on a six-game road trip on Thursday, according to Chauncey Billups.

The six-time All-Star will meet with specialists in order to address the injury, which has plagued him for at least four seasons.

The news adds further speculation to comments made by Billups last week, that the team was seriously considering shutting down Lillard for an extended period so that he can properly mend the injury.

On January 5, the team announced Lillard would miss games against the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard will also miss tomorrow night’s make-up game against the Brooklyn Nets and now road games against the Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Heat, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors.

Lillard, who recently positioned eighth in Western Conference guard in the first All-Star voting returns, is joined by fellow starters CJ McCollum (collapsed lung), Norman Powell (health and safety protocols) and Larry Nance Jr. (knee inflammation) on the sidelines tonight.





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Effa’s tiny but tip-top team tools up for a tiff with trivial toothbrushes on their own turf – TechCrunch


Travel, conferences, hotels, they all have something in common: Everything is designed to be used once, and then discarded. Of course, it would be delightful if everyone was able to not use single-use plastics for their cups, razors, toothbrushes and everything else, but unless consumers rebel, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. It ain’t just single-use issues either: According to the Journey of a Toothbrush short documentary, most people go through 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime. That’s a big pile of plastic.

“We have started this company effort together with my husband. It was his idea — he’s an industrial designer and he was working a lot with different materials, prototyping and working with different gadgets. He actually told me about this idea on our first date: the nonsense of using a disposable toothbrush in your hotel for three minutes and then throwing it away and nothing will happen with it afterward,” explains Dasha Kichuk, CEO at Effa.

There are a number of companies trying to make these high-volume disposable products have a little bit less of an impact. Life without Plastic makes toothbrushes out of wood, Brush with Bamboo makes ’em out of, well, you guessed it. Eco Roots makes toothbrushes and dental floss out of bamboo. It’s a thing, lots of people are doing it. At CES, a Ukrainian company announced it is joining the fray in the retail market. Effa, which makes toothbrushes out of paper, just announced a disposable razor made mostly of paper, and is preparing to offer a number of other products as well.

Effa’s toothbrush is made out of sugarcane-based paper. The brush head is made of PBT Nylon — the same as many of the Bamboo brushes use, which can be made from recycled plastic bottles. The company also innovates in its approach to recycling — after use, you can separate the head from the body and throw them into different bins for proper recycling. In addition to the toothbrushes, the company makes a razor made of the same materials as the toothbrushes, with removable heads for separate recycling.

“We are creating a white label brand, because a lot of companies we’re working with, want to have our logo — and theirs — on the products. They want us to be part of a sustainable journey and they want to show their support of sustainable startup,” explains Kichuk. “We started shipping just a month ago. So far, we have shipped our first batch to retail shops all over Ukraine — that batch is around 20,000 pieces — and we have made 2.6 million sales for toothbrushes to be delivered within 2022. Right now we have orders in Korea, in Europe, in Ukraine, but we are here at CES to look for new customers who are eager to go to the U.S. market. Our mission is not to be the manufacturing company: We want to create a brand. America is the best country to do that; this is where brands are born.”

The founders, Dasha and Ilya Kichuk, told me that the company was originally focusing on the travel space, and claims it had made sales to a number of high-profile clients, including Marriott, Radisson, Lotte Hotels and others. The pandemic put a significant dent in travel, and the company decided to pivot to the retail market in its native Ukraine, with an imminent launch in local grocery chains. At CES, the company is trying to find broader distribution for its products.

I tried out Effa’s paper toiletries; they look and feel like regular paper, but the way the products are designed means they still feel sturdy and good to use. After use, recycling the paper handle and the head separately is easy. Image Credits: Effa.

“I love this question!” beams Kichuk as I ask her why the company is named Effa. “It is named after a butterfly that lives and dies in just one day, Ephemera. The ultimate goal for our company is to replace those plastic disposables. We are eager to replace plastic disposables in the medical industry. Another market that is interesting is prisons because apparently plastic toothbrushes are forbidden in prisons. That’s what we want to explore — along with working with social organizations like UNICEF and the Red Cross, to bring our social mission there as well. We are ready to ship up to 4 million pieces in the next year, and we need to start growing our team to start growing from there.”

The company currently consists of six people, including the husband-and-wife CEO and CMO team, a marketing person, a salesperson and an R&D department.

“I say R&D department,” laughs Anna Sulim, the company’s marketing and PR manager, “but it is one person. So we are a small team, but we work around the clock to fulfill this mission.”

Read more about CES 2022 on TechCrunch



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TravelPerk Launches Team Event Management Solution


Travel management platform TravelPerk has launched a new solution designed to allow clients to organize events-based travel.

Named TravelPerk Events, the solution is designed to help teams plan, book and manage business trips for company events like offsite meetings and seasonal parties.

According to TravelPerk, the tool was developed in response to the growing trend of hybrid and remote working models in which teams are distributed across multiple locations. Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index shows more than 70 percent of survey respondents would like flexible and remote working to continue as the world adjusts to the “new normal” following the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The company said TravelPerk Events users would have a single solution for managing team events, such as sending invitations and tracking responses; sharing trip details including attendee names, logistics, agendas and a wider itinerary; keeping attendees updated with additional details or changes; and viewing attendees’ travel plans, including arrival and departure times and accommodation details.

Attendees have the option of booking their trip through the event page, eliminating the need for planners to organize travel and accommodation via email with participants, according to TravelPerk.

TravelPerk said Events is live on its platform and will be updated with additional functionality over the coming months.

TravelPerk has pursued significant international growth throughout 2021, having acquired travel sustainability firm Susterra in September, U.K. travel management provider Click Travel in July and U.S. rival NexTravel in January. The company raised $160 million in Series D funding in May.



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Deaf Football Team Brings Pride to Riverside Community


RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Every once in a while a story comes along that prompts a reporter to drop everything, cancel appointments, forget the notion of a weekend, hug family members goodbye — and dash.

For me that story was about a high school football team. Last week, I drove seven hours from my home in the East Bay to the California School for the Deaf, Riverside. I was not disappointed.

After a long string of losing seasons, the football team was undefeated and, for the first time in the school’s history, vying for the division championship. The article I wrote about the team, which is known as the Cubs, was published this week.

When I arrived at the campus, the school’s ebullient superintendent, Nancy Hlibok Amann, graciously gave me a tour. Through a sign language interpreter she told me about the team’s coach.

“His blood runs pigskin,” she said of Coach Keith Adams.

That evening Coach Adams and his players pummeled their opponents in the second round of the playoffs. The lopsided result was not a surprise. The Cubs had outscored their opponents, 642-156, during the regular season, lifting the spirits of a community hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday I accompanied the players and coaches to the N.F.L. game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Minnesota Vikings, where stadium announcers celebrated the Cubs’ victories. Dressed in their red jerseys, they watched as their faces showed up on the enormous videoboard. Friends texted to say they had seen them on television.

There are many explanations for why the team is doing so well this year — the particular cohort of players is very talented, swift and disciplined. And the athletes play hard.

“I love being physical, the hard hits and the tackles,” said Tevin Adams, the team’s quarterback. He is also the coach’s son.

But what struck me most was how comfortable and confident the players seemed to be together as a deaf team with deaf coaches. It was their world on their terms.

When they were younger and played in hearing leagues, they were often put at nose tackle because the position required less communication. Now they played whatever position suited them best.

“They have a very special bond, a chemistry,” Amann told me. “They’re able to read each other.”

I asked Laura Edwards, the athletics supervisor at the school, about the longstanding debate over whether deaf children should attend mainstream institutions or all-deaf schools.

Edwards is deaf and was born into a hearing family. She told me that she recently brought an interpreter to a family gathering because she wanted to capture as many conversations as she could.

“Growing up as a deaf person I never went to a deaf school,” Edwards told me. “It was a struggle to make friends. It was very lonely.”

At the Riverside campus, Edwards says she watches deaf students who transferred from mainstream institutions blossom. “The communication barrier is eliminated and there is inclusion and social interaction.”

“Our student athletes are the same as any other hearing students in terms of physical and mental skills and athletic talents,” she texted me later. “The only difference is they are Deaf.”

Edwards noted that she had capitalized the word “Deaf.”

“It’s not a typo,” she said. “We have a culture of our own.”

Thomas Fuller is the San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times.


Doing 300 minutes a week of moderate exercise may help ward off cancer.


Today’s travel tip comes from June Oberdorfer, who recommends the newly restored covered bridge at the South Yuba River State Park in Nevada County:

The bridge, built in 1862 for transport from northern mines, was closed in 2011 for safety reasons. Due to a very active local citizens’ group (SOB: Save Our Bridge) that raised money and lobbied the Legislature for funding to restore the bridge, it was reopened on Nov. 4, 2021, to pedestrian traffic. The bridge is the longest-surviving single-span, wooden-covered bridge in the world. Its preservation is a wonderful legacy for many future generations.

In summer, small children play in the water along the sandy beach just downstream. Any time of year is a good time to hike the Buttermilk Bend Trail (which follows the path of an old water supply ditch) upstream or the Point Defiance Trail loop downstream, with views of the river around each curve.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.




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