Steinmetz: Mully, Mario and N.Y. playground mojo

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Steinmetz: Mully, Mario and N.Y. playground mojo

Aug. 9, 2011

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Editor's note: NBA Insider Matt Steinmetz is traveling to Springfield, Mass. this week to cover Chris Mullin's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Following his exclusive coverage up to and through Friday's ceremony.

Matt Steinmetz
CSNBayArea.com

There are plenty of current NBA players who have never played a game of basketball on asphalt. Most of today's pros have only played basketball indoors. They played in organized games and leagues from a very young age, and they've never taken a shot on a basket that didn't have a net on it.Kids just don't play outdoors like they used to, and there just aren't as many pickup games as there used to be.Which may make Warriors great Chris Mullin the last-ever playground legend. That's not the reason Mullin will be enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Mass., but it might as well be added to the list of reasons.
Mullin grew up in Brooklyn and honed his game all over the city of New York -- in Harlem, in Queens, in Manhattan, wherever there was a game. And Mullin realized one thing very early: The best games were often in the toughest parts of town."Growing up in New York, and playing in Harlem and all those neighborhoods -- it was like a rite of passage, actually," Mullin said recently. "Some people it doesn't happen to, and you stop. You stop going. When I first went it was really uncomfortable. I knew a few guys from school. Mario. Was the guy I played with. Mario Elie."So he would meet me at the train station, walk me to the game and get me right back. It was like that. You didn't want to hang around after the game. Little by little, as I started having good games, it did go hand in hand. And I went from going there and getting out to staying, hanging out playing another game. Then someone says 'You want to play with us?' It took a little time but it gave you great confidence, acceptance and respect. That's what it did."Elie and Mullin knew each other from Power Memorial, where Mullin first started high school."He just knew that the way to get respect was to go to the tough neighborhoods," Elie said. "And Chris got respect there. He was all right, but in some different neighborhoods there were some sore losers. But he was respected and everybody wanted Chris on their team, the only white guy with a bunch of brothers. But he was a great player. A great player."Said Mullin: "We played everywhere. Went to Rucker (Park) and played tournaments it was more like word of mouth. Everywhere. In Queens, we had Elmcor, Elmhurst and Corona. Brooklyn had their tournaments. Basically, all over the city. Yeah, I got beat up a few times. Not literally. But out of sorts a little bit. CYO wasn't playing that brand of basketball. It's a little different style."That style included a little more flash and flair than Mullin was used to. But like most aspects of the game, Mullin picked that up quickly, too. Like many of the greats, Mullin was not only fundamentally sound, but he also had pizzazz to his game."The creativity stuff, I learned from them," Mullin said. "Be a little creative, intuitive below the rim. If that stuff doesn't work, it's showboating and you're an idiot. I was taught that, too. Coach (Lou) Carnesecca said you don't go behind your back unless you have to. You don't go between your legs unless you're avoiding something. Again, the balance."It would be easy to get off kilter, and I probably would have, basketball-wise. But over time, I came back to the guys who coached me and they would always balance me out."Mullin didn't stop playing pickup once he got to St. John's or even after he got to the NBA, either. Elie said he remembers Mullin playing a game in "Uptown," during the summer of 1992 -- which was the summer Mullin was a member of the Dream Team."He had 50-something," Elie said. "He was phenomenal. His confidence was high, he was a guy on the Olympic Dream Team playing tourney games. He didn't worry about getting hurt. He just wanted to play."

Implemented by Kerr, 'Warrior Way' fuels Game 3 win in Portland

Implemented by Kerr, 'Warrior Way' fuels Game 3 win in Portland

PORTLAND -- Mike Brown slid over one chair, oversaw a rousing Warriors comeback victory and showered his compromised roster with lavish praise.

They did it, he said, pointing out the work of everybody from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, to Pat McCaw and JaVale McGee in a 119-113 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Green begged to differ. He turned the finger of commendation upon Brown, the assistant coach who adroitly stepped into the shoes of ailing head coach Steve Kerr for a win that gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven first-round series.

“He was the MVP tonight,” Green said of Brown.

So, of course, Curry, who scored a game-high 34 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter to put away the Blazers, gave the game ball to Kerr.

“We’ve got his back,” Curry said. “We’ve had certain situations all year, in previous years, where players are down and you’ve got the ‘next man up’ philosophy. Same with Coach Kerr. He’s done a great job of implementing a philosophy and a strategy and an identity of how we play Warrior basketball, and even in his absence we want to kind of live up to that.”

This is the Warrior Way, every man contributing, every man mattering, and no individual hogging the accolades.

Truth be told, there were heroes aplenty in a game the Warriors yanked straight from the clutches of the loss column.

There was McGee coming off the bench providing a jolt of electricity when his teammates seemed badly in need of recharging.

There was Curry, looking lost on offense for most of the night, before zeroing in when it was needed most.

There was McCaw, the rookie second-round draft pick who again defied his youth, tap-dancing all over the stat sheet.

There was Green, blocking six shots. There was Thompson, drilling four 3-pointers in the third quarter. There was Andre Iguodala, igniting the defense during the pivotal third-quarter stretch when the Warriors wiped out a 16-point lead.

Miss anyone?

On, yes, there was at least one more contributor.

General manager Bob Myers also nudged his way into the picture. After watching Portland shoot 53.3 percent in the first half, Myers jokingly threatened to replace Brown with veteran assistant Ron Adams for the second half.

Brown and the Warriors responded by holding the Trail Blazers to 33.3-percent shooting in the second half.

No single player or coach was responsible, just as they would have it.

 

Sources: In agony, Kerr had difficult time keeping up with Warriors' Game 3 win

Sources: In agony, Kerr had difficult time keeping up with Warriors' Game 3 win

PORTLAND -- Steve Kerr was in such agony Saturday that he found little comfort even while watching from the team hotel as his Warriors pulled out a playoff victory over Trail Blazers, multiple sources told NBCSportsBayArea.com.

The pain is so intense that Kerr even had difficulty keeping up with the game. Moreover, it may be a while before he’s able to return to full-time coaching duties.

Assistant Mike Brown served as acting head coach in a 119-113 win over Portland in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.

“He’s obviously going through a lot physically,” Stephen Curry said of Kerr after the game, “and that’s first and foremost for him to take care of himself, make sure he’s on the road to recovery and feeling like himself.”

Kerr was in obvious discomfort Friday, when he met with the media for his post-practice news conference. Though he made the flight to Oregon with the team Friday afternoon, he was not able to attend shootaround Saturday morning. It was the second time this season that Kerr missed a shootaround, the first coming March 2 in Chicago.

By Saturday afternoon, the Warriors were announcing he would not coach Game 3.

It was not a great surprise to those who work closely with Kerr.

“He’s suffering,” said one person close to Kerr.

“He hadn’t been feeling well for a couple days, so I knew it would be a possibility,” Brown said before the game.

Kerr continues to cope with debilitating side effects from multiple back surgeries in the summer of 2015. He took a leave of absence last season, missing nearly all of training camp and the first 43 games of the regular season before returning.

Both the symptoms have persisted. Kerr still cannot do many of the things he loves, he acknowledged to NBCSportsBayArea.com, such as play golf. Though his back is somewhat improved, he still experiences severe headaches and neck pain.

The worst part about the discomfort is its consistency. It’s nagging at him every day and night, sometimes more severe than others.

It has gotten worse in recent days, though. It is conceivable, even likely, according to those close to Kerr, that he will miss Game 4 Monday night.