LOS ANGELES: Mike Brown, standing in for Golden State coach Steve Kerr as the Warriors head into an unprecedented NBA championship rubber match with Cleveland, is downplaying his complicated Cavaliers connections.
Brown has been at the helm as the Warriors stormed unbeaten through the first three rounds of the playoffs with Kerr sidelined by debilitating symptoms stemming from back surgery two years ago.
Brown coached Cavaliers superstar LeBron James for five years in Cleveland before Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sacked him for the first time.
By the time Gilbert hired Brown back before the 2013-14 season James had already migrated to Miami.
An injury-ravaged Cleveland team went 33-49 before Brown was fired again in May of 2014 — shortly before James returned to Cleveland as a free agent and two-time NBA champion with the Heat.
“It’s all over the place. It’s not something that I can hide from or run from,” Brown said of his connection with the Cavs.
“It’s a little ironic that things happen in life this way. I was just talking to my boys about it. It’s like ‘The Lion King.’ It’s the ‘Circle of Life.’”
Golden State forward Kevin Durant is another newcomer to the third installment of Warriors-Cavs who has history with James.
Durant’s only prior appearance in the championship series was with Oklahoma City in 2012 — when the Thunder fell to the Miami Heat in the Finals that gave James his first title.
“It’s a little different, definitely,” Durant said of heading into the title showdown with the favored Warriors after controversially departing Oklahoma City as a free agent before this season.
“I can’t lie. I went when I was 23 years old and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship,” he said. “So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”