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Warriors’ Mike Brown blending his style into Steve Kerr’s foundation

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — They often hear him arrive at work from upstairs in the Warriors executive offices, the thundering vroom of his Harley Davidson a telltale sign.

Mike Brown rolled in on his Bay Area bike – he has another in Cleveland – one day last week, and since the practice he was leading between playoff games would be short, he never bothered to change out of his beige Harley-logo T-shirt and dark jeans.

Somehow, the veteran NBA coach filling in for the Warriors has found a way to beautifully blend being his distinctive self with carrying on the way reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr would do it if he were here and healthy.

Brown still works out Draymond Green daily on a court in the far corner of Golden State’s practice facility, almost as if nothing has changed in his position.

“It’s a tough balance,” two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry said. “Obviously Coach Kerr has set up an atmosphere and a way of doing things here that’s worked and been successful. When he hired Coach Brown, Coach Brown aligned right with that kind of idea. Coach Brown’s done a great job so far just, respectful is a word, but taking ownership of the opportunity right now to get over this next challenge. He obviously has Coach in his ear all the time, and that’s how it should be, but he’s got to have confidence in himself and in his own mind and what he sees out there to make decisions on the fly and push the right buttons in games and make the right adjustments.

“He’s done a great job of that ever since Game 3 in Portland. I’m sure that will continue.”

The 2009 NBA Coach of the Year with the Cavaliers, Brown has embraced getting another shot on the bench with an uber-talented team like Golden State – and wow has he coached some of the game’s biggest stars along the way, from LeBron James to Kobe Bryant to now Curry and Kevin Durant.

As the unbeaten Warriors prepare for the Western Conference finals against either Houston or San Antonio, this is a moment Brown knows won’t last. Kerr, who had another procedure last Friday for a spinal fluid leak, could come back before the postseason ends. But he might not.

The 51-year-old Kerr missed the first 43 games during last season’s run to a record 73 victories, including an NBA-best 24-0 start as now-Lakers coach Luke Walton guided Golden State to a 39-4 record in his absence. Brown and Kerr talk and text regularly to plan practice or scout opponents.

“Steve has done a fantastic job laying a great foundation down culturally and X’s and O’s basketball-wise,” Brown said. “We have a great staff. The staff has helped out tremendously and (GM) Bob Myers and his group, the leaders on the team, the veterans that we have. Everybody has kind of pitched in to help us keep heading in the right direction during this time.”

Brown has learned not to get too high or too low. He has been through the ringer losing his job in Cleveland only to come back, being let go by the Lakers and even facing a frightening situation last May putting out a kitchen fire in his home that left him scarred from all the burns.

Brown could end up coaching against the Cavs in the NBA Finals after guiding them to the playoffs in all five seasons during his first stint there from 2005-10.

Each day at Golden State headquarters, there is Brown going about leading Green through his post-practice individual work.

“It’s extremely important. I still have a role to do,” Brown said Wednesday. “Steve’s the head coach. So I’m going to keep doing it. That’s not going to change for me.”

Everyone figures just anybody can coach this star-studded roster, right?

Not quite that simple. But to withstand the absence of a head coach in the heart of a championship chase, it sure doesn’t hurt to have an experienced group of coaches and veteran players. That has helped make this such a seamless transition for everybody involved, and allowed Kerr to take all the time he needs to seek answers and healing as he deals with debilitating symptoms that stem from complications following a pair of back surgeries nearly two years ago after the team’s 2015 title run.

“Mike has done a really great job of leading the team, being very mindful of who we are as a team, directing a team as he feels Steve would kind of direct the team,” assistant and defensive specialist Ron Adams said. “I’m not talking about necessarily the messaging but I am certainly talking about the everyday process, talking to the group. Mike is a really mindful person, a person who’s very comfortable in his own skin.”

Brown has been Kerr’s manager of minutes all season, offering insight on substitution patterns from the very start that has played a key role in how rotations go – such as keeping two starters on the court at all times.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach and the coaching staff is just so smart. They empower each other. If you’re around us on a day-to-day basis I think anybody can tell they kind of work well as a group as far as a coaching staff. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all just by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players. It’s unfortunate that he’s not on the bench with us, but he trusts and we all trust in Coach Brown to keep leading us.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Adam Silver on sports gambling: “My sense is the law will change in the next few years”

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This isn’t new ground for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. He has called legalized sports gambling in the United States “inevitable” and advocated in the New York Times for the federal government to put in a framework to control it. He’s not been shy about telling the heads of the other major sports leagues what he sees coming. Mark Cuban has Silver’s back on this one.

The commissioners of the four major sports were all on hand for a panel called “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports” in New York on Wednesday, and Silver’s position hasn’t changed, reports ESPN.

“My sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States,” Silver said when asked about gambling.

He also stressed the importance of in-game wagering to fan engagement, noting, “People want to bet throughout the game … It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans.”

I’m not sure about “the next few years” timeline. I would rather be forced to watch The Emoji Movie than try to predict what the current Congress will do, but with its current conservative makeup legalizing sports betting seems unlikely.

But in the next decade or two… it feels like Silver may be right. The Supreme Court is taking up the case of whether the federal government can block states — in this case, New Jersey specifically — from allowing sports gambling. That could open the door for other states to follow.  Governments state and federal will not see it as a moral issue so much as a new revenue generator — they can tax it. So it will happen. Eventually.

With that Silver is right, professional sports leagues need to be prepared for that reality. The NBA seems to be out in front of that, ready to ride the wave when it crests. For now, they are just paddling around waiting for the right wave to ride.

Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis: “My prediction is John Wall will sign his extension”

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John Wall is one of the handful of NBA players who qualifies for the new designated veteran “super max” contract extension — and the Wizards want to give it to him. A four-year, $170 million extension of his current deal is on the table (it would kick in after the two years, $37 million on his current contract).

Wall has yet to sign it. He said at the time it was offered he wanted to talk about it with his family and see what the Wizards did this offseason. He’s not unhappy, he just wants to be sure before he locks himself in with Washington through his prime.

Washington owner Ted Leonsis told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post he thinks Wall will sign.

Maybe, but there’s not a lot of motivation for Wall to sign right now. Wall can bet on himself that he will make the All-NBA team again next year — there’s a deep class of guards but if he stays healthy he stands a good chance — at which time he’s still eligible for a designated veteran “super max” contract extension that would be five-years, roughly $200 million (and would kick in after the one year on his current deal).

That delay would also keep pressure on the Wizards to find ways to improve the roster. Washington is largely capped out and didn’t make any major moves this summer other than re-signing Otto Porter to a max extension (they matched a Brooklyn offer sheet). Washington is good, likely the third or fourth best team in the East, but a notch below Cleveland and Boston right now. Wall wants to push them to get another star and help Washington move up into contender status — he pushed for the Wizards to chase Paul George and have him replace Porter (a deal that was never going to happen, but you can see what Wall is thinking about being one star player short).

Ultimately, I think Leonsis is right, Wall will sign. It’s just a matter of when. Does he take this deal now, or wait until next summer and do it?

Chicago billboard calls for Bulls to fire Gar Forman, John Paxson

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Gar Forman split Executive of the Year with Pat Riley the same year Riley lured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to the Heat.

Forman’s stock has fallen quite a bit since.

The Bulls general manager – who works with executive vice President of basketball operations John Paxson in a duo (once affectionately) called GarPax – is facing increased scrutiny. The latest: A Chicago billboard organized by Bulls fans and paid for by GoFundMe donators.

GarPax’s recent missteps have been troubling. The breakup with Tom Thibodeau was messy and felt personal, especially with Fred Hoiberg succeeding him. First-round picks – Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott and Marquis Teague – have yielded little dividend. The Jimmy Butler trade was almost unbelievably lousy, even after the Three Alphas plan with Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo fell flat.

But it’s also worth taking a step back. The Bulls have won 59% of their games, made the playoffs seven of eight years and never had a losing season under Forman. This somewhat feels like Chicago fans having unrealistic expectations.

The most important question owners should ask when weighing whether to retain management: Who will best guide the team forward? Prior results should matter only to inform that question.

Based on overall body of work GarPax has a case for staying on the job. The tandem built a 62-win conference finalist around Derrick Rose then saw his injuries sabotage the run. But GarPax has also trended the wrong direction, failing too often (and too often predictably) since Rose declined.

Would the Bulls hire someone who will do better than Forman and Paxson if they fired those two? Maybe, and it’s a discussion worth having. But the answer isn’t as simple as I suspect the people behind this billboard would believe.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Otto Porter: ‘He’s a max person in my mind’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Otto Porter is a quiet, complementary piece to the Wizards’ talented young core. He is also now Washington’s highest-paid player.

At least temporarily.

Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal garner most of the attention as Washington has made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs three of the last four seasons. But for now, Porter makes the most money after the Wizards matched a four-year, $106.5 million max-contract offer sheet the forward signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

There might be questions if the 24-year-old Porter is worth that money. But the Wizards believe he is a good fit alongside Wall, 26, a four-time All-Star, and Beal, 24, one of the league’s top shooting guards.

“You just use that as motivation just like John and Brad did,” Porter said at a news conference Wednesday. “They set the bar high. I’m going to set my bar, high, too.”

Porter entered this offseason as a restricted free agent, and when agent David Falk couldn’t agree to terms with Washington on July 1, he chose to shop his client’s services. The Sacramento Kings showed interest, but the Nets were the most serious and made a run at Porter.

“They felt like they wanted to test the market to see if there was something more out there, and they did,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “But it wasn’t a big decision because all along we said we wanted to keep our young core together.”

It probably won’t be long before Wall surpasses Porter as the Wizards highest-paid player. Wall was named third-team All-NBA this past season, and the point guard is eligible to sign a $160 million, four-year super max contract any time before the 2017-18 season begins. Wall will not become an unrestricted free agent until 2019.

Re-signing Porter was a top priority for Washington this summer. The No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft out of Georgetown, Porter had a breakthrough season. He ranked fourth in field goal percentage among small forwards (51.6 percent) and fifth among all NBA players in 3-point percentage (43.4 percent).

Porter’s ability to fit seamlessly with Wall and Beal without needing the ball in his hands is a huge plus, too, according to Grunfeld. At 6-foot-8, Porter’s length also plays a significant role in the Wizards’ defensive concepts. His skillset was so valuable to Washington the Wizards surpassed the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold by matching the offer sheet.

“I never look at Otto and judge him by the stat sheet,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He does so many little things that the stats don’t show. He dives on the floor for a loose ball, he sets screens. He makes the extra pass to the corner, offensive rebounds.

“You can never have enough high-character guys that are committed to each and that’s what he is,” Brooks said. “He’s a max person in my mind.”