Coaches keep it friendly

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Larry Brown said he felt badly for his good friend Gregg Popovich on Thursday night.

But Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, jokingly wondered yesterday if coach Brown really felt all that badly, as his Detroit Pistons were posting a 31-point victory in Game 4 of the NBA final.

"And you bought that?" Popovich said when told of Brown's alleged sympathy. "How long have you been covering Larry?

"I wish (legendary NBA coach) Doug Moe were here. He would give you a good answer. I want to beat (Brown) by 50. To hell with him."

Humour aside, Popovich said he understood what Brown was talking about.

"No, he's right," Popovich said. "It's a strange deal when you've known somebody this long. When we won the first two games (of the Final) I was thrilled about it and I wouldn't give them back. But when I saw (Brown), it was like, 'How you doing, coach?'

"He felt bad for me (when Detroit won Games 3 and 4), but he's not going to give them back, you know. So that's just an irrelevant little side note."

NOTHING TO CHAUNCEY

Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups is the superstitious type.

Last year during the NBA Final when Detroit was playing the Los Angeles Lakers, Billups ate a hamburger the day of the first game. The Pistons won, so he kept it up. This year, after the Pistons beat the Spurs in Game 3, Billups decided to keep wearing the same shoes and same belt.

"Not the same clothes, though," Billups said.

"I used to be real bad, but I tried to get away from (superstitions) because it gets a little tough to do the same thing every single day, every single time. I used to be worse, but I'm still a little superstitious."

LABOUR PROGRESS?

If progress can be measured in time spent together, things were looking better in NBA labour talks yesterday.

Commissioner David Stern, union director Billy Hunter and several owners and players met for more than seven hours at a Manhattan hotel, the first substantive talks in weeks between the sides negotiating a new labour agreement to replace the seven-year deal expiring June 30.

ESPN quoted players union president Michael Curry as saying the talks were going "good," and that he was hopeful the framework of a new deal might be in place by the end of the weekend.

COACH CASEY

The Minnesota Timberwolves hired longtime Seattle assistant Dwane Casey as their new coach yesterday.

Casey will be charged with turning around a team that failed to make the playoffs this season after reaching the Western Conference finals in 2004.


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