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.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.

Tyronn Lue doesn’t hold back with retort to heckling Pacers’ fan

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It’s a part of the NBA experience that most fans don’t get to hear — some fans courtside heckling opposing players and coaches, and those guys occasionally firing back. We only tend to hear about it when things cross a line.

Sometimes the interactions are just funny, such as this one passed along by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Well played, Lue.

Although is Cleveland really a city at the forefront of fashion? Well, I suppose if you went to college in Nebraska…

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.