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Mike Brown returns to Cleveland, this time with Warriors

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Mike Brown happily slid into his normal seat to coach Steve Kerr’s left for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. For the first time in weeks the Warriors were whole again.

Brown has moved before – not always so willingly – and over the next few days he’ll return to a familiar place.

Golden State’s well-liked top assistant, whose first two stints as a head coach were to nurture a young LeBron James and then pamper Kobe Bryant, is heading to Cleveland, the city that shaped him more than any other.

It’s where he was hired twice and fired twice by the Cavaliers, who are paying him until 2020. It’s where he raised his two sons. It’s where he rooted himself in the community and stayed after losing his job in 2014. And it’s where he still has a home and keeps one of his Harleys, which he took for cruises along Lake Erie to clear his mind.

“He loves those Harleys,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green. “That just means he has `em in every city he goes to. That’s an addiction.”

When Game 3 tips off Wednesday night with the Warriors holding a 2-0 lead that feels insurmountable, Brown will be back in a building where he and James appeared in their first Finals together 10 years ago.

In 2007, the Cavs were no match for the powerful San Antonio Spurs, who overwhelmed Cleveland and swept the series. Brown can surely appreciate the irony in coming back as part of a juggernaut.

“Circle of life,” Brown said last week. “Like the `Lion King,’ everything comes back around, I guess.”

Brown’s Finals debut must seem like a lifetime ago for the 47-year-old, who guided the Warriors to an 11-0 mark in this postseason while Kerr battled intense pain stemming from back surgeries.

“My guy did OK while I was gone,” Kerr said after the Warriors won Sunday night.

During last year’s Finals in Cleveland, Brown met with Kerr about joining the Warriors staff and replacing Luke Walton, who was bound for the Los Angeles Lakers. The interview came before the Cavs rallied from a 3-1 deficit, and before Kevin Durant announced he was headed to the Bay Area.

After he was fired for the second time by the Cavs, Brown had stepped outside the coaching circle, choosing instead to watch oldest son Elijah play hoops at New Mexico and filming his other son Cameron’s Friday night high school football games. All the while, he stayed connected by talking with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, his mentor and former boss.

Popovich urged him to join Kerr.

Brown’s willingness to accept an assistant’s job despite 563 career regular-season wins and 47 in the playoffs underscores his humility. But that’s Brown: unassuming, ego-less, the consummate teammate.

And while he hasn’t strayed from preparation and the attention he learned growing up in a military family, Brown has shown a willingness to change. He has loosened up. With the Warriors, he had no choice.

Borrowing philosophies from other coaches, Kerr has created a loose atmosphere, believing a less-structured environment allows players to perform more freely and effectively. Kickball games are not uncommon and yoga is practiced regularly. Warriors practices typically begin with loud music booming through loudspeakers.

It can be jarring to outsiders.

“I remember the first few practices, me and Mike, we were new guys and we were looking at each other like: `This is how it goes down here?”‘ Durant said. “So it was an adjustment for both of us. It was great for me to have Mike to kind of like go through the season with me, and kind of help me out and help me get adjusted. It was different for both of us.”

If things had gone differently, Brown might still be Cleveland’s coach. Given only one season on his return, he was dismissed despite a nine-win improvement and a colossal jump defensively. He still had four years left on his contract, and unfinished plans.

Last week, Cavs All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said he wished his time with Brown had gone better.

“I was a 21-year-old kid, just trying to lead a franchise, and he was a new head coach that I had to get introduced to a new offense, new players, as well as a new system,” Irving said. “I kind of regret being part of that because he was just trying to teach me a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily understand as a 21-year-old. So, he definitely had some great things and the knowledge of the game that’s up there with some great coaches.”

Brown could be in demand again. Kerr’s health may prompt a reshuffling at Golden State, and there are certain to be other vacancies next season.

Brown though, isn’t in any hurry to pack up, and he’s not viewing his trip to Cleveland as anything more than business.

“I’m not looking at this as Cleveland fired me twice, this is the time to get back at them or is there any extra incentive?” he said. “I just want to win. I just want to be a part of a winning program and be the last team, quote/unquote, standing.”

 

Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

TIP-INS

Warriors: The 47 points allowed in the first quarter was their most given up in any quarter since Portland had 48 in the fourth quarter of a game on Nov. 14, 1992.

76ers: J.J. Redick scored 20 points, and Dario Saric had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Continue their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn.

76ers: Host Utah on Monday night.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.