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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

Charlotte awarded 2019 NBA All-Star Game

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This isn’t a surprise.

Disappointing by the NBA, but not a surprise.

A month after the NBA Board of Governors cleared the way for the NBA’s showcase All-Star Game to return to Charlotte — saying the steps the state took to reverse the controversial “bathroom bill” that cost the state the 2017 game were enough — the NBA has awarded the 2019 game to Charlotte.

“For three decades, the NBA has had a home in Charlotte. Generations of families have attended games there, and fans from many different walks of life have come together to share a passion for a team that is an anchor in the community,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We have decided to award NBA All-Star 2019 to Charlotte based on this deep connection and the belief that we can honor our shared values of equality and inclusion, and we are excited to bring the All-Star Game back to Charlotte for the first time in 28 years.

“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law. Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies. All venues, hotels and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well.”

“We are thrilled the league has awarded NBA All-Star 2019 to the city of Charlotte,” Hornets primary owner Michael Jordan said. “All-Star Weekend is an international event that will provide a tremendous economic impact to our community while showcasing our city, our franchise and our passionate Hornets fan base to people around the world.”

The weekend of events will take place Friday through Sunday, Feb. 15-17, 2019, mostly at The Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte. (The 2018 All-Star Game is in Los Angeles.)

All the controversy was due to the discriminatory bill HB2, commonly called “the bathroom law,” which was passed by the North Carolina legislature in 2016. The law restricted transgender bathroom use (you had to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from the city, one of a number of events that pulled, or businesses that reduced their footprint in the state due to the bill, ultimately costing North Carolina $3.76 billion in economic impact, according to an Associated Press report.

The repeal of the law was not complete, some LBGT restrictions remained in place, such as a ban on cities (such as Charlotte) passing any nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation until 2020. Gay-rights advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, and mayors from multiple other cities (which did not lift their government business travel bans to the state) said the compromise repeal did not go far enough. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who was elected in part due to this issue, said this compromise repeal was the best that the legislature would approve.

This was not enough of a repeal. The NBA returning the All-Star Game to Charlotte is the moral and economic equivalent of liking a post on Facebook complaining about Chick-fil-A’s history of anti-LGBT donations and activism, then going and eating at the restaurant.

But the NBA is a business and it wants to make that fan base happy. No doubt Jordan and his ownership group have brought stability to the franchise and worked hard to rebuild an NBA market that the previous owner had completely destroyed (ending with George Shin moving his team to New Orleans, if it wasn’t for Donald Sterling Shin would be seen as maybe the worst NBA owner of the past couple decades).

So the 2019 game is headed to Buzz City.

Pau Gasol on Warriors: “In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now”

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Pau Gasol has two rings from playing alongside Kobe Bryant on a Phil Jackson coached team in Los Angeles. He knows what elite basketball looks like.

And he’s very impressed with the Golden State Warriors.

Via Courtney Cronin of the San Jose Mercury News.

“They’re in a groove,” Gasol said. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship. In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”

This kind of praise was heaped on the Warriors last year, but Cleveland was able to come from 3-1 down in the Finals. Cleveland is an excellent team led by the best player on the planet.

Still, this year feels different. As Boston has shown in recent games, Cleveland’s help defense can be exposed with good ball and player movement. And even if the Cavaliers can again slow down Stephen Curry, this year there is Kevin Durant, too.

Danny Green was one who thinks the Cavaliers have a chance.

“They’re a great team, but Cleveland’s a great team, too,” Spurs forward Danny Green said. “Cleveland’s done it before. Do I think they can do it again? It’s possible. I wouldn’t say anything’s impossible. It’s a really good team and they have pretty good chances if they stay healthy and keep rolling like they are to win again.”

Kyrie Irving rubs salt in wound, gets 42nd point with behind-the-back ball fake (VIDEO)

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Kyrie Irving was awesome Tuesday night.

Unless you are a Boston Celtics fan, in which case it was hard to watch him carve up and embarrass your team for a career-best 42 points. He did a lot of that damage after rolling his ankle.

Particularly embarrassing was the final play of the game, when he drove past Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, then went with the behind-the-back ball fake that burned Jae Crowder and opened up a lane for an uncontested layup.

Check out Irving’s entire night here.

Utah Utes forward Kyle Kuzma reportedly rising up draft boards

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Kyle Kuzma wasn’t sure how things would play out when he announced plans in late March to test the NBA draft. The Utah Utes junior forward was well aware of the doubters and didn’t immediately hire an agent to keep open the option to return for his senior year.

A month later, Kuzma has hired an agent and is rising up the pre-draft rankings after a superb NBA combine and strong individual workouts. He’s considered an early to mid second round pick.

“I just got more confident, I’m not going to lie, throughout the whole process,” Kuzma said Tuesday. “Working out every day with the NBA ball and just imagining yourself down the road. Once I declared with an agent prior to the combine, people’s ears raised up. But I just knew it in my heart it was the right decision for me. Everything’s really falling in line right now. It’s looking good.”

The Flint, Michigan, native had a pre-draft workout with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and continued to show evaluators an ability to shoot the ball from NBA 3-point range. Kuzma was named first-team All-Pac-12 after a 2016-17 season during which he averaged 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds. The 6-foot-9, 223-pounder has a versatile game that allows him to handle the ball on the perimeter as a playmaker with good size, but he shot just 32.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Kuzma turned heads with 20 points and four-for-five shooting on 3-pointers in his lone 5-on-5 scrimmage at the combine.

“I changed my jump shot up a little bit,” Kuzma said. “Being more fluid and more comfortable shooting the ball from the NBA 3. I feel like I’m more comfortable shooting from that 3 than from college 3 right now. A lot of people were surprised, but I really wasn’t. I put a lot of work into my game every single day.”

Kuzma had another quality workout Tuesday, according to Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin, and continued to shoot the ball well. Perrin said Kuzma was by far the best player at the six-man workout and that he wished he could have brought Kuzma in to face a more talented group.

The versatility of Kuzma’s game is a positive even though he falls into a tweener category – a little slight to be a true power forward and not quite quick enough to be a pure small forward. That may not matter in today’s NBA.

“We’re going more and more toward positionless players,” Perrin said. “You look at Golden State … they don’t have guys that play certain positions. They have the best players on their team playing. … We’ve gone to nobody posting up, basically, to everybody being able to put the ball on the floor and create shots on the perimeter, penetrate and kick to guys wide open in the corner for threes.

“The guys on the floor have to be able to guard their so-called position. And I think we’re looking more and more at that in terms of he can have an advantage on offense, but where is his disadvantage or advantage defensively?”

The Utes were well represented at the workout with forward David Collette joining the group.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder hasn’t hired an agent and is expected to return to school. Perrin couldn’t discuss Collette because of that, and he couldn’t talk to the media, but Kuzma said the rising senior showed off a newly refined midrange jump shot. The Utes will rely heavily on Collette as the lone returning starter, who averaged 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.

Utah will lose its best player to the NBA draft for a third consecutive season as Kuzma follows Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright. The process has kept Kuzma smiling as he met childhood idol Magic Johnson, watched his stock rise and is on the verge of playing basketball for a living.

“I feel like you’ve got to be two feet in with everything you do,” Kuzma said. “I definitely looked at the pros and cons, but my heart was in getting to this level and trying to prove people wrong again like I’ve done my entire life.”