Despite the generally positive mood about Mike Brown after successfully guiding the Golden State Warriors through the first two rounds undefeated, the biggest question that has come in conversations with friends as well as the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers fans I’ve talked to (I somehow manage to work with both Spurs and
Cavs Kyrie Irving fans in the Bay Area) is whether Mike Brown is capable of taking this team back to the NBA Finals.
Standing in front of the Warriors now is the machine from San Antonio that has been well-oiled and maintained for two decades -- I can’t even talk trash to my co-worker without getting the how many rings you got in the last 20 years? or YOU REMEMBER OPENING NIGHT?!? line (or both, should I choose to continue talking trash). Adding Mike Brown to this mix is just like fuel to the fire.
Can he lead a team after being fired by the Cavs twice, not to mention the L.A. Lakers debacle? Would there be any additional pressure to win against the Cavs given the history there?
And it’s not hard to find that sentiment on Twitter either.
GS could be in for a shock. Mike Brown is no Steve Kerr..Pop is a better tactician than Mike Brown which could prove to be the difference https://t.co/uesN4nmSDR— IntellectualQuotient (@Darkntellectual) May 12, 2017
If Steve Kerr ain't coaching I got the spurs in 7. Mike brown is trash— iNEED$ (@TokenBoyChris) May 12, 2017
If Steve Kerr doesn't come back Warriors ain't beating Cavs. Mike brown is not a good coach and they don't listen to him— Dalla$ (@JRueCity) May 12, 2017
But what people might be underestimating when judging Brown on his past coaching experiences is how much he has changed since we last saw him in Cleveland (or Los Angeles). With time away form the game came time to reflect on his coaching style and, as Anthony Slater of the Bay Area News Group has reported, time to become more flexible than rigid in his coaching approach.
Through it all...Brown emerged with a different, reinvigorated approach to life. Enjoy the ride...He was starting to understand the vibe. He began to meld into the organization’s culture, while still picking his spots to teach. Maybe one day down the road, if he returned to the top seat, he’d bring some of this with him.
Then Steve Kerr’s lingering health issues worsened and the coach was forced off the sidelines. Boom! Welcome to your test run, Mike Brown 2.0.
And Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group quoted Draymond Green after Game 4 in Utah to support the idea that Mike Brown is starting to make his presence felt on the Warriors.
After his news conference, Brown joked that he was “just throwing guys out there,” but this clearly was a veteran coach showcasing a unique and, if I may say, Kerr-esque, feel for this group of players.
“You definitely feel his fingerprints,” Green said of Brown. “He made the right subs at the right time. For the most part the rotation has been pretty consistent, but when he’s needed to go a different direction he’s pulled the trigger at the right time and it’s been working for us.”
Here’s what we can hope for if you’re finding cause to doubt Brown’s ability to guide this team back to the Finals.
- If anyone has insight into how to beat the Spurs, it’s Brown, who has spent ample time around the team before joining the Warriors.
- He’s 6-0 thus far in the playoffs with the Warriors.
- The Warriors’ culture is solidified to the point that Mike Brown 2.0 just has to keep things going.
Let’s hope that all works out. This is, of course, a story that’s still developing and it might end up being a defining storyline of the series.
Warriors’ culture gaining attention
Speaking of the Warriors’ culture, one of the more interesting threads to me during our recent podcast with Marcus Thompson II was the way that Stephen Curry’s selflessness and humility contributes to his leadership role on the Golden State Warriors.
Fittingly, Thompson’s article entitled ‘How Kevin Durant and Steph Curry learned to share the limelight” was published by the Bay Area News Group on the same day as our podcast — not taking credit for inspiring the article or anything, but it was both a perfect complement to some of themes we discussed with him during the podcast and a piece that could’ve easily been a chapter of The Miraculous Rise of Stephen Curry.
And here’s the part that makes me appreciate this team while others find it “boring”: I’m not sure there are two MVPs in recent memory who could make a partnership work quite like these two have.
Curry convinced Durant by showing up to the Hamptons to recruit him, and by poignant text messages about his willingness to share the kingdom he built for the sake of the kingdom’s sustained dominance.
If the Warriors win the NBA title, the happy ending will have been earned. The relationship between the two MVPs has taken work. So much potential is there for resentment and enmity.
Nobody said sacrifice was easy. Perhaps these two MVPs are the only ones who could pull this off.
Perhaps the soft side of sports doesn’t move you, but a) it’s nice to have news of success in the world right now that doesn’t come at the expense of others and b) this dynamic is just an undeniably important -- and, in many ways, defining — aspect of the team’s success throughout this season.
With the Warriors having extended time off, others have taken time to attend to the interpersonal dynamics of the team, from the story of Zaza Pachulia and Klay Thompson’s bromance, as documented in a string of FanShots by BornInDaEB, to a behind-the-scenes video narrated by Ian Clark to the story of how humor has helped fuel the team’s success.
Warriors the favorite to win the Western Conference Finals
Regardless of whatever you believe about how much the culture contributes to success, there are cold hard facts to support your optimism about the Warriors returning to the mountaintop.
FiveThirtyEight currently has the Warriors as 87% favorites to return to the Finals with an 80% probability of winning the title. The Cavs, meanwhile, sit at a lowly 5%.
numberFire’s series projections also lean positive, but not quite as overwhelmingly so with “just” a 65% chance of the Warriors winning this thing.
Golden State Warriors win in 4: 8.85%
Golden State Warriors win in 5: 20.18%
Golden State Warriors win in 6: 17%
Golden State Warriors win in 7: 19.82%
Golden State Warriors win series: 65.85%
San Antonio Spurs win in 4: 3.39%
San Antonio Spurs win in 5: 6.5%
San Antonio Spurs win in 6: 12.96%
San Antonio Spurs win in 7: 11.3%
San Antonio Spurs win series: 34.15%
Brett Oswalt of numberFire described why the regular season meetings between the Spurs and the Warriors probably won’t mean much.
If we're being real, we can't read all that much into the regular season series between the two teams. But that's not just because it was the regular season. It has a lot more to do with player availability.
With at least one usual starter missing from either side for each of the contests, the three-game series was riddled by injuries and rest nights.
Sipping on that Haterade
I still can never decide who I despise more between the L.A. Clippers and Houston Rockets, so these days I just try to honor the depths of my hatred for both as the moment strikes me.
@ESPNSteinLine So... Clippers still a clown show no matter what?— Neto DePaula Pimenta (@DePaulaPimenta) May 10, 2017
Oh I didn’t even have anything more to say about those teams. Just figured they speak for themselves at this point.
- Brandon Robinson of RESPECT Magazine interviewed Shaquille O’Neal’s mother Lucille ONeal, who had this to say about that ridiculous feud with Warriors’ center JaVale McGee: “...there had to be a cutoff point and I knew it was time so I encouraged him to just let it go. Brandon when I was growing up we used to say sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you that is really not true, because words can hurt you. So with the war of words going on both of them were hurt so it was just time to let that go.”
- Today in Kevin Durant is Awesome: according to a press release, the Kevin Durant Community Foundation will be showcasing renovations for the courts at the Lincoln Recreational Center in Oakland along with community partners including the Warriors Community Foundation, Finish Line Youth Foundation and Good Tidings Foundation on May 17.
- TicketIQ reports that 2017 Western Conference Finals tickets are at a three-year low for both the Cavs and Warriors, which is fair since they were astronomical at Oracle Arena last year.
One explanation, according to Ralph Garcia of TicketIQ in a press release: “With the Warriors adding Kevin Durant to what was already a record setting team and the Cavs once again being favored in the East, perhaps fans are simply waiting to spend their money on the NBA Finals instead.”
Let’s hope we get that opportunity to be priced out of the Finals at Oracle once again!