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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.”

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Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.