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Hammon takes over for Popovich, 1st women to direct NBA team

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon calls a play during a timeout in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — 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 an 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.

Dennis Schroder had 21 points, Anthony Davis had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers. Dejounte Murray had 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds for the Spurs.