‘THREE!’ chronicles the Warriors run to the 2018 NBA Championship.
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LAS VEGAS – Nothing could disrupt Mike Brown’s state of relaxation.
The Warriors’ assistant coach just returned from France after attending a friend’s wedding. Only a month ago, Brown won his second consecutive NBA championship with the Warriors. And he spent Monday watching his son, Elijah, playing in the Warriors’ summer-league loss on Dallas.
Nothing could rattle Brown, not even the NBA’s frenetic free agency period that included LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I don’t really think it does anything for us. No matter where he is or no matter what anybody else does, everybody gets up and plays us,” Brown told Bay Area News Group. “Everybody is gunning for us. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Lakers and LeBron, the Clippers or whoever else. It’s going to be a dog fight. I don’t know if it does anything for us as a team.”
Is that because the Warriors now have five All-Stars after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins?
“Yes,” Brown said, laughing.
Brown will soon work with the Warriors’ four other All-Stars in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. While all those players will participate a minicamp here for the U.S. Men’s national team from July 25-27, Brown will serve as one of the assistant coaches under Gregg Popovich.
Before then, Brown sounded deferential on speaking with Lakers coach Luke Walton about James after coaching him during most of his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-2010).
“If Luke asks me, I’ll give him my perspective. He’s a fantastic individual and extremely smart basketball player,” Brown said about James. “He knows the game inside and out on both ends of the floor. Luke should feel extremely lucky, blessed and fortunate, like anybody who has had a chance to coach LeBron and be able to work with him. There’s no magic in it. He’s a great guy and you coach him as you see fit. He’ll buy into anything you say. Best of luck to them both, except when they play us.”
Brown laughed after saying those words. He then immediately turned serious on the perception that James brings plenty of drama along with his obvious talent.
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“Everybody says he’s difficult to coach and all that. But he’s not,” Brown said. “That’s the only thing that comes with it – the attention that he brings to the table is off the charts. When you have that kind of caliber of player and kind of attention that comes with it, that’s something that you deal with and get used to it. The team gets used to it. He’s not going to bring any unnecessary attention upon him or the team.”
That did not stop James from attracting attention regarding his pending free agency. That produced countless stories and speculation during each season before those decisions in Cleveland (2009-10), Miami (2013-14) and Cleveland again (2017-18). Before James’ first free agency departure, though, Brown stressed that uncertainty never hovered over the team.
“I didn’t talk to him much about it because he didn’t want to talk about it,” Brown said. “In my opinion, it was a moot point. Nothing could happen during the season. Nothing was going to happen during the season. So I left him alone.”
The Cavaliers promptly fired Brown after they lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. Nearly two months later, James announced in an infamous hour-long ESPN special that he would “take his talents to South Beach.” After initially dodging questions on if the Cavaliers fired Brown in hopes to appease James, Brown entertained the inquiry nearly eight years later.
“There probably has to be some truth to it. You would have to speak to Dan Gilbert on that because he’s the one that made the decision,” Brown said about the Cavaliers’ owner. “But I’m not 100 percent for sure.”
Does Brown harbor any ill will toward Gilbert or James?
“As crazy as it might sound to some people, I thank him and Dan Gilbert for giving me an opportunity,” Brown said. “I have great memories here in Cleveland, not only with the city but with the team.”
After a head-coaching stint with the Lakers (2011-12) and another one with Cleveland (2013-14) that both ended in firings, Brown has produced much better memories recently.
After winning two NBA titles with Golden State as an assistant and acting head coach, Brown dismissed any interest in any future head-coaching vacancies because of his affection for Warriors coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers, majority owner Joe Lacob and the team’s All-Stars.
“I thoroughly enjoy where I’m at right now,” Brown said “I’m not looking to go anywhere.”
Brown gushed about watching his son, Elijah, play on the Warriors’ summer-league team. He stressed he has not seriously or jokingly pressured Warriors summer-league head coach Willie Green to play his son. After Elijah initially was sidelined with a concussion, Brown mostly praised his son’s defense and shot selection upon his return. And after his son resisted his father’s feedback as a child, Brown spent this week watching film and talking basketball with Elijah at the team’s hotel.
“I’m just happy he’s got an opportunity,” Brown said of his son, who played at University of Oregon. “He’s worked hard to get an opportunity. He’s working hard and it can turn into more as time goes on. He’s just got to play, whether it’s G- League, overseas, here or wherever.”
Brown also expressed gratitude for Popovich inviting him as one of his assistants, though it is unclear if Brown will be part of his coaching staff for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“Anytime you can be a part of USA basketball, you jump at that opportunity to represent your country in any way, shape or form,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re sweeping the floor or shagging rebounds or if you’re helping with coaching. When he asked me if I wanted to be a part during that mini camp, I jumped at the opportunity.”
The Lakers also jumped at the opportunity to sign James after grooming their young players and clearing up cap space while missing the playoffs for the past five seasons. Though the Warriors praised the Lakers’ development last season, they hardly seemed phased about James’ arrival after sweeping his Cavaliers team in the Finals over a month ago.
“Anytime you can have that kind of caliber player playing with one of the LA. teams or New York or Chicago, it’s always good for the league because those are huge markets,” Brown said. “For him to go there is a good get for the city of L.A. and the Lakers. It’s going to make them competitive once again.”