The Vertical Podcast with Woj

The Vertical Podcast with Woj

United States

Adrian Wojnarowski, the most dominant force in NBA reporting, brings you inside the league with, the “Vertical Podcast.” Woj is probing the biggest newsmakers in the sport – from the commissioner, to general managers, coaches and star players – to bring listeners inside the processes, personas and stories that impact the NBA. Beyond longer sit-down interviews in our New York studios, Woj will deliver real-time podcasts with league personnel built around breaking news.


Erik Spoelstra joins Woj  

​Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra joins Adrian Wojnarowski for a visit on The Vertical Podcast with Woj. ​In a rare extended interview, Spoelstra goes into great detail on the Heat’s improbable regular season success, the Big Three era with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, his relationship with Pat Riley and why the idea of someday becoming a president/coach in the NBA intrigues him. ​Spoelstra talks about growing up in an NBA family in Portland, playing pro ball in Germany, and the fateful day that Hank Gathers died on the court against his University of Portland team. 3:28: The team’s resilience after an 11-30 start to the season and lessons from this year’s team. 9:05: The organization’s decision to not tank this year. 12:04: How the perception of Spoelstra differs from when he had the Big 3. 14:33: Learning from other coaches like Chip Kelly and Pete Carroll while maintaining the Heat’s culture. 18:33: David Fizdale’s success in his first-year as Grizzlies coach. 24:08: How his father’s career as a marketer exposed him to innovative thinking. 31:05: Growing up around NBA players and later recognizing his own limitations as a player. 36:48: Being on the court when Hank Gathers died on March 4, 1990. 43:00: His professional playing career in Germany and the expectations for an American player to be a big-time scorer. 49:09: His expectations when he started with the Heat in the video room. 57:23: The point Spoelstra realized he could become a head coach in the NBA. 1:00:41: The pressures of replacing Riley on the bench. 1:06:41: How Riley empowered him to help shape the team’s culture. 1:13:19: His first reaction when the Big 3 formed in Miami and the team’s first training camp together. 1:16:35: How Spoelstra’s relationship with Wade helped during the early days of the Big 3. 1:22:44: The intense scrutiny surrounding the team’s 9-8 start in 2010. 1:29:17: Losing in the 2011 Finals to the Mavericks following the emotional season. 1:34:16: Blocking out the criticism to enjoy the experience of coaching the Big 3. 1:43:16: Spoelstra’s ambition to eventually run an organization himself.

Karl-Anthony Towns joins Woj  

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns joins The Vertical Podcast with Woj to discuss his rapid rise to stardom, his national championship regret at Kentucky, giving up his chance to play USA Basketball to elevate the Dominican Republic national team, and whether he will intercede on the issues separating his mentor Kevin Garnett and Minnesota ownership. 0:50: Towns interviewing Kevin Durant while he was in high school. 2:27: How players like Kevin Garnett and Durant inspired Towns to develop a perimeter game and 3-point shot. 4:24: Playing against his father’s high school team while he was still in elementary school. 6:30: Understanding the importance of carrying himself the right way from a young age. 8:17: Deciding to stay with a local AAU team instead of joining a bigger program. 12:54: Playing for the Dominican national team while he was in high school and not being able to play for Team USA. 15:47: John Calipari coincidentally being the Dominican team’s coach. 18:48: Losing in the Final Four during his lone season at Kentucky. 22:45: What Towns learned from his mother’s career as a behavioral health nurse. 25:23: The weight and expectations that come with being the No. 1 pick. 27:00: Towns’ first conversation with Kevin Garnett. 29:54: Will Towns attempt to repair the relationship between Timberwolves ownership and Garnett? 31:25: Learning the responsibilities of a franchise player.

Brett Brown joins Woj  

Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown joins Adrian Wojnarowski for a conversation on the rapid development of Joel Embiid, the elements of coaching that become more important to Brown as he gets older and how he's learned to work with new GM Bryan Colangelo.

CJ McCollum joins Woj  

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum joined The Vertical Podcast with Woj. McCollum discussed his partnership with Damian Lillard, the challenges that comes with a $100M contract, his path from a small college to NBA stardom and much more. 1:35: McCollum’s support of the Boys and Girls Clubs in Portland and his hometown in Ohio. 2:53: Deciding to stay at Lehigh instead of transferring to a bigger program after his freshman season. 5:45: McCollum and Lillard as examples that scouts will find talented players no matter what school they play for. 10:03: His mindset when he got injured after returning for his senior season. 15:22: McCollum’s breakout third season and winning Most Improved Player. 17:03: Lillard’s support and encouragement for McCollum’s development into a star player. 19:52: Becoming a leader and dealing with the team’s struggles this season. 23:27: Jusuf Nurkic’s instant impact on the Trail Blazers and how he fits into their future. 26:19: How signing his maximum contract extension impacted McCollum’s off-court life. 29:56: People wanting him to take big risks after signing his extension. 31:54: Seeing other players spend beyond their means early in their careers. 34:15: How the spike in the salary cap has impacted players’ mindsets. 36:33: The quick negotiation process for his extension with the Blazers.

Dennis Lindsey joins Woj  

Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey joins The Vertical Podcast with Woj and discusses in great detail his franchise’s research into NBA data on how the league has officiated the franchise over the past few years. Lindsey offers a something rare out from an NBA GM: A detailed, data-driven window into how the NBA’s referees have officiated his team in recent years, and why the findings concern the organization. Utah has spent a great deal of time and resources investigating the accuracy of officials’ calls against the Jazz --- and how he’s a proponent for the NBA to make even more referee data available to teams. Lindsey also discussed the impending free agency of Jazz star Gordon Hayward, the hiring and emergence of Quin Snyder as one of the league’s finest coaches, his background working with Gregg Popovich and RC Buford in San Antonio and an amazing childhood growing up with his parents in Texas as part of a household that included dozens of abandoned children whom the Lindsey’s took in. 2:13: Balancing scouting responsibilities with following the Jazz 4:07: The team’s mindset as it returns to the playoffs. 7:53: Utah’s research about how the league officiates the Jazz and being on the wrong end of high-discrepancy games. 16:29: How the team’s style of play influences how its games are officiated. 18:58: Should the Jazz strategically get more technical fouls? 24:10: The NBA’s response to the evidence the Jazz have accumulated. 27:10: The movement towards making more officiating data public. 32:44: Lindsey’s childhood growing up with his parents in Texas as part of a household that included dozens of abandoned children whom the Lindsey’s took in. 40:25: How his upbringing informed his views on situational character. 45:52: Breaking into the professional game in Houston. 49:06: How his time with the Spurs prepared him to become a GM. 1:04:11: Hiring Quin Snyder to coach the Jazz. 1:10:50: Building the Jazz through the draft. 1:17:35: Hayward’s upcoming free agency this summer.

Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Crean join Woj  

Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Crean join Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast to discuss the pronounced and subtle differences between NBA and college coaching, including some great Bill Parcells, Dwyane Wade/LeBron James and Harbaugh brothers stories.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka joins Woj  

​Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka joins Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast. ​Pelinka lays out the franchise’s vision to rebuild the storied organization, including big-game hunting in free agency. Pelinka, who represented Kobe Bryant, talks about his transition from a prominent player agent into the front office. Pelinka talks about his history with the Fab 5 at the University of Michigan, where he took part in three NCAA Final Fours. 1:37: The Lakers’ legacy of excellence 3:30: Pelinka’s first priorities since taking over as GM and using Dr. Jerry Buss as an example. 6:24: The importance of re-establishing the Lakers as a free-agent destination. 11:40: Pelinka’s previous experience in orchestrating trades as an agent. 13:51: The valuable insights that agents get into each organization and how Pelinka plans to apply what he learned from other franchises. 16:11: Changing from competing against other agents to working with them. 19:14: Strategies the Lakers can take from smaller market teams. 21:27: Playing with the Fab Five at Michigan. 25:32: Being recognized more often for looking like actor Rob Lowe than his career or his Fab Five involvement.

Ty Lue joins Woj  

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue joins Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast to discuss the Cavaliers championship run, coaching LeBron James, learning the craft under Doc Rivers and his close relationship with Kevin Garnett. 2:13: The Cavs’ decision-making process for resting players. 7:13: How has the coaching position changed since the start of Lue’s playing career? 9:29: The positive and negative impact of social media on players and the league. 11:08: The whirlwind experience of taking over as head coach of the Cavs midway through last season. 13:30: His relationship with Doc Rivers and the difficult decision to leave the Clippers for the Cavs in 2014. 18:53: The influence of his former coaches on his own coaching style. 22:27: Childhood goals and dreams while growing up in Mexico, Missouri. 25:14: Leaving his family as a 15 year old to move to Kansas City. 28:00: Not being afraid of confrontation after a childhood filled with adversity. 30:14: The keys to coaching LeBron James and earning his trust and respect. 33:04: Being one of the few people to be close with Kevin Garnett. 34:25: Helping talk Garnett into accepting the trade to Boston. 37:47: The differences between Boston’s Big 3 and Cleveland’s current Big 3.

Derek Fisher joins Woj  

​Derek Fisher joins Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast for a candid visit on his tenure as New York Knicks coach --- and what’s next for him. ​Fisher detailed his relationship with Knicks president Phil Jackson, the triangle offense, the mistakes he made and lessons he learned as a young coach.

NCAA Tournament and NBA Draft with Jonathan Givony  

​Jonathan Givony of Draft Express joins The Vertical Podcast with Woj to break down the NCAA tournament’s potential impact on the 2017 NBA Draft. ​Givony and Woj offer some bracket tips before digging into UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Duke’s Jayson Tatum, and many of the stars who’ll impact this year’s deep NBA Draft. Givony delivers great perspective on how team’s weight March Madness in context of a prospect’s overall body of work. ​Woj and Givony also discuss the Luka Doncic, the 6-foot-8 teenager tearing up the EuroLeague for Real Madrid, a player whom many believe will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 Draft.

The MVP Race  

​Michael Lee of The Vertical joins Adrian Wojnarowski to break down the MVP race (including Westbrook, Harden and Leonard) the impact of Kevin Durant on Steph Curry’s season in Golden State, the Coach and Executive of the Year races and much, much more. ​The Vertical’s shoe insider Nick DePaula also joins Woj to discuss the shoe endorsement dynamics of the MVP race, the summer sneaker free agency of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential shoe marketing might of UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.

Serge Ibaka joins Woj  

Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka visits with Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast with Woj. Ibaka talks about his arrival in Toronto as the potential missing piece on an Eastern Conference championship contender, the run in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, his journey from the Congo and his summer free agency. All that and more on the The Vertical Podcast with Woj. 2:42: Ibaka’s brief stay in Orlando. 3:28: His long history with Masai Ujiri, dating back to when he was still in the Congo. 4:55: The Raptors wanting Ibaka to be a dominant defender and how the style of play in the league has changed in his career. 9:37: Expecting to win multiple titles with the Thunder. 10:26: Could the Thunder’s core have balanced their egos for the long term? 12:10: The hunger the Thunder had as a young team. 13:35: How painful it was to lose a 3-1 lead against the Warriors last season. 15:42: Balancing his personal goals with the team’s goals while with the Thunder. 18:50: Was Ibaka surprised when the Thunder traded him? 20:16: Westbrook being the only core member still with the Thunder and Ibaka’s reaction to Durant’s departure. 24:30: How his daughter has changed his life. 28:17: His daughter’s transition from Africa to living in the United States. 30:22: His priorities entering unrestricted free agency for the first time. 31:35: Ibaka’s journey from Africa to Europe to the NBA. 39:08: What gave Ibaka hope that he could succeed as a basketball player? 42:02: Using his foundation to improve the infrastructure in the Congo, particularly to increase the education opportunities. 48:43: The Raptors viewing Ibaka as the piece to push them over the top.

NBA Trade Deadline Podcast  

Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks breakdown the deals of the NBA Trade Deadline, including the future of Paul George in Indiana, Jimmy Butler in Chicago and the Boston Celtics. Here are some key moments: 0:34: The Pacers holding on to George and his well-known interest in joining the Lakers in 2018. 5:47: The Pacers being in a tough position without knowing George’s intentions. 9:26: How the new CBA is already impacting star players in small markets. 12:15: The Celtics being in position to pursue Butler, George or Gordon Hayward this summer. 15:10: Isaiah Thomas’ potential reaction if the Celtics draft a point guard. 17:46: Danny Ainge being patient instead of going all-in to win this season. 19:33: Rebuilding teams accumulating draft picks at the deadline. 22:10: Daryl Morey’s quickly reshaping the Rockets since the end of last season. 25:23: How being in trade rumors impacts players. 28:31: The Raptors making a push to chase the Cavs in the East. 32:36: How teams, including the Raptors and Heat, are using the D-League to develop players. 37:28: The Thunder adding Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

Inside the DeMarcus Cousins trade  

Adrian Wojnarowski and Vertical front office insider Bobby Marks break down the DeMarcus Cousins trade in a bonus edition of The Vertical Podcast with Woj. Woj and Marks go inside the process and drama that led to Cousins trade from Sacramento to New Orleans, and what the ramifications will be for both franchises.

Ettore Messina joins Woj  

San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina joins The Vertical Podcat with Woj. Messina, a legendary European coach, discusses what it’s like to work with Gregg Popovich and immerse himself into the unique Spurs culture. Messina talks about his years as Dean Smith’s interpreter on the Carolina coach’s trips to Italy and his years coaching Micheal Ray Richardson in Italy after his banishment from the NBA for substance abuse. Messina talks about his desire to become the first European-born and raised NBA head coach and what the distinct differences are between coaching in Europe and the United States. Here are some key moments: 2:17: How Messina’s views about basketball have evolved with the Spurs. 4:20: The differences between the Euroleague and NBA. 6:51: The benefits of being an assistant and getting to know the league. 8:42: How Popovich uses team dinners to bond with players and create a unique team culture. 12:40: Messina’s relationship with Manu Ginobili. 19:04: Falling in love with the game of basketball as a child in Italy. 20:50: How visiting American coaches, including Dean Smith, helped his development. 24:17: The Spurs’ focus on fundamentals and execution. 25:38: How Popovich’s Spurs compare to Smith’s Carolina teams in terms of taking social stands. 28:20: Coaching Michael Ray Richardson after he was banned from the NBA. 33:35: Messina coaching against Kobe Bryant’s father in Italy. 35:00: What he learned from being around all-time greats like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. 37:42: How he decided to coach in Russia. 40:16: Mikhail Prokhorov’s hand-off ownership style. 42:40: The opportunity to become the first European-born head coach in the NBA. 45:11: Popovich’s respect for international basketball and his popularity overseas.

Dwyane Wade joins Woj  

Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade joins Adrian Wojnarowski for a probing hour of conversation on The Vertical Podcast with Woj. Wade speaks with great candor on his split with Heat president Pat Riley, the building of the Big Three with LeBron James and Chris Bosh and how that free agent coup transformed the powerbase of the modern NBA star. Wade talks of his future with the Chicago Bulls, how he evolved with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and why he was so uneasy about climbing into the Banana Boat for the first time. Here are some key moments: 2:56: The thin line between success and failure in the NBA. 5:19: Wade’s expectations for this season in Chicago. 8:10: Thoughts on Tim Duncan’s jersey retirement ceremony in San Antonio. 11:47: Wade’s relationship with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. 14:39: The distinctive culture around the Heat and Spoelstra proving himself with the Big 3. 19:58: Wade and Spoelstra leaning on each other after James’ departure and Bosh’s health problems. 23:02: The microscope the Big 3 played under during their first season together. 25:00: The Big 3 starting an era where players have leverage over teams. 27:40: How important was USA Basketball to the formation of the Big 3? 29:57: The dysfunctional Knicks not being prepared for Wade, James or Bosh in 2010. 34:02: An increased sense of admiration for Riley after leaving the Heat. 36:12: Did the Heat take Wade for granted? 38:23: Not hearing from Riley during the negotiation process last summer. 41:00: Balancing his desire to win with his desire to make up for past paycuts. 43:36: Returning to his hometown and trying to help during the ongoing gun violence crisis. 45:35: Watching his sons and nephew play basketball, including the pressure that comes with their connection to Wade. 49:57: Plans for his post-playing career and looking to Magic Johnson as a model. 52:33: Not wanting to get on the Banana Boat and the possibility of the group playing together. 54:43: How Wade’s selflessness in pursuit of winning will impact his legacy.

Julius Randle joins Woj  

Lakers forward Julius Randle joins Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast with Woj. Randle discusses the influences of Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace on his young professional career, the intense scrutiny of life as a Kentucky Wildcat, John Calipari and how he's approaching fatherhood with his newborn son after growing up without his father in the household.

Jerry Krause joins Woj  

Legendary Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause joins The Vertical Podcast with Woj for an extensive visit. ​Krause goes into great detail on the building of the Bulls dynasty, the genius and competitive will of Michael Jordan, MJ’s retirement and return, the hiring of Phil Jackson from the Albany Patroons and the dynamic drama of those relationships. Krause goes into great detail on his painstaking processes as a basketball and baseball scout, the lessons Red Holzman taught him on the scouting trail and the most important quality beyond talent that he needed to surround Jordan with on the Bulls (yes, mental toughness) Krause tells of his anxieties on the phone discussing trades with Celtics GM Red Auerbach, the amazing chain of events that led him to making a draft night deal for Scottie Pippen and how as a member of the Phoenix Suns organization in the early 1970’s, the organization talked with Bob Knight about becoming the franchise’s coach – and why the offer was never made. And finally, Krause talks about his deep desire to be elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, where he’s finalist again in 2017. Here are some key moments: 1:50: Krause’s health preventing him from scouting for the past few years. 3:57: Scouting at a high level in basketball and baseball. 6:30: How Theo Epstein’s overhaul of the Cubs led to a World Series title. 8:47: The benefits of scouting two sports. 13:31: What he learned about scouting from Hall of Fame coach Red Holzman. 14:51: Discovering Earl Monroe before he was on the national radar. 18:17: The Suns nearly hiring a young Bobby Knight in the 1970s. 21:17: Transitioning from being a scout to general manager of the Bulls. 25:44: Wanting Jordan to not play after he broke his foot and the divide it caused between him and the front office. 32:23: Drafting Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in 1987. 38:16: Identifying Pippen as a playmaker to complement Jordan. 45:33: Jordan challenging the mental toughness of his teammates. 46:51: The difficult decision to replace Doug Collins with Phil Jackson. 54:53: How the Bulls came to run the triangle offense. 58:10: Negotiating with Celtics president Red Auerbach. 1:01:03: Jackson portraying Krause and the front office as the team’s enemy. 1:03:49: How he learned about Jordan’s first retirement and his improvement as a baseball player. 1:07:37: Building the Bulls for their second three-peat. 1:14:49: Jordan and Pippen disliking Krause’s pursuit of Toni Kukoc. 1:16:39: The end of the Bulls dynasty. 1:23:27: Where the Bulls rank among the NBA’s greatest teams and dynasties. 1:27:05: Being a finalist for the Hall of Fame this year and what it would mean for Krause. ​

Joe Dumars joins Woj  

​Hall of Fame player and executive Joe Dumars joins Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast. ​In his first extended interview since leaving a 14-run as Detroit Pistons GM in April of 2014, Dumars goes deep into his championship run in the 2000’s, the turbulent final seasons, the Rasheed Wallace trade that completed a championship team and the Kobe Bryant deal that never happened. ​Dumars talks about his desire to work as an NBA GM again, what he’s learned away from the front office grind and how he’d approach a new challenge. Dumars also talks about his affection for Pistons coach Chuck Daly, his childhood in rural Louisiana and a teenage AAU team that included Dumars, Karl Malone, Benny Anders and Benoit Benjamin. Here are some key moments: 2:37: Stepping away from the NBA after spending so many years with the Pistons. 5:42: How the dominance of Golden State and Cleveland will impact the trade deadline. 10:48: The trade for Wallace that pushed the Pistons over the top in 2004. 16:56: Larry Brown pushing for the team to acquire Wallace. 21:48: Nearly acquiring Bryant after coming to an agreement with the Lakers. 26:17: How the league has evolved since his playing career in the 80s and 90s, including the elimination of fighting. 30:54: His initial reaction to the Malice in the Palace. 33:32: Growing up in a football family in rural Louisiana. 37:47: Learning the value of hard work from his father. 40:26: Dumars’ worldview before entering the NBA. 45:39: The importance of Chuck Daly to his career. 51:30: Evaluating the last few years of his tenure with the Pistons. 55:12: The process that led to drafting Darko Milicic in 2003. 57:50: Wanting to get back into the league in the right situation. 1:00:35: Lessons learned during his time away from the league.

Isaiah Thomas joins Woj  

Boston Celtics All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas joins Woj on the Vertical Podcast to go inside his spectacular season, watching Patriots quarterback Tom Brady up close, his relationship with his childhood idol Allen Iverson, the NBA stars that he would pay to watch and his belief that he can be a franchise star on a championship-level team.

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