Matt Barnes talks being a Clipper, finding minutes

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For a guy who has spent the past few seasons being a solid role player on quality teams — Orlando first then the Los Angeles Lakers — it took a while this summer for Matt Barnes to catch on with a team.

And Barnes understands why.

“First and foremost, me being injured last year during the playoffs and not really playing to well had something to do with it…” Barnes told ProBasketballTalk. “Then I had a little arrest situation out here and that probably had something to do with it.”

Let’s take those in order. First, Barnes was battling ankle and neck injuries during the playoffs and that hampered his play. Look at it this way, during the regular season he played nearly 23 minutes a game with a PER of 15.5 (right at the league average); then during the playoffs his minutes dropped to under 17 minutes a game with a PER of 4.2.

He said both his neck and ankle are 100 percent now heading into training camp with the Los Angeles Clippers, who signed him to a one-year deal.

Then there was his arrest in Manhattan Beach (near his California home) which started out being over an outstanding traffic warrant but included a resisting arrest charge. Barnes says he has an Oct. 1 court date, and while he wouldn’t get into details he said his attorney says everything is good and the situation will be quickly resolved.

Those issues were not enough to stop the Clippers from signing him, in part because Chris Paul recruited him. Barnes is pretty happy with where he landed.

“I think they are heading in a great direction, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as the leaders…” Barnes said. “They also added lot of playoff experience and veterans in the mix.”

Barnes becomes the latest at a crowded wing spot for the Clippers — Caron Butler probably starts at the three, Jamal Crawford is the sixth man then Grant Hill as well as Barnes are in the mix. Once healthy, Chauncey Billups likely starts at the two guard spot (he doesn’t play point with the Clippers) and Willie Green is behind him.

Minutes are not going to be easy to come by for Barnes.

“Throughout my career I’ve never been handed anything… the cards have been stacked against me since I started so I just look at it as a great opportunity, and if I go in and do what I need to do I’ll land minutes. If not, I’ll be ready to help the team,” Barnes said.

After 10 years in the league, Barnes has learned to adjust to fighting for minutes and coming off the bench in a way a lot of pros with shorter careers never do.

“It’s learning to be professional, whether you come out of HS or spent some years in college, once you land in the NBA for the majority of guys it is a rude awakening,” Barnes said. “At whatever level you played at you were the man and it’s an adjustment. You’re not used to not playing, to sitting. But you have to realized your one of few people in the world blessed to play basketball in this league and you just have to work at it.”

Barnes spent his summer doing MMA workouts, staying in shape — and learning to eat right. Like a pro. At age 32. Because he said suddenly his body wasn’t responding from workouts the way it used to.

“I’ve been one of those guys who just eats what I like, and this is the first year I’ve learned how to eat — the right proteins, vegetables,” Barnes said. “ I work as hard as anyone in the world but I’m a bad eater. But my family has supported my changed and are eating this with me.”

Barnes also was back running his youth basketball camp on the campus of EA Sports. So yes, the campers spend the day working on their basketball skills on the hardwood at the EA Sports campus in Northern California, but when they take breaks they do it in the EA Cafe and EA Arcade — a little slice of video game heaven. Barnes gets in there and competes with the kids on games as well.

But now he’s back home, eating right and getting ready to fight for his minutes with the Clippers. The same fight he’s had for years, it seems. But he always seems to land on his feet.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).