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Matt Barnes relishes being back with Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Golden State Warriors returned home for all of a day and Matt Barnes hitched a last-minute ride with a former summer league pal to Sacramento on Tuesday to pick up some clothes and his car before hitting the road again with his new – and old – team.

It has been a whirlwind few days. And he’s loving it.

Barnes is thrilled to be back in the Bay Area after a decade away, helping the league’s top team try to withstand the devastating loss of leading scorer Kevin Durant to a knee injury that is expected to sideline him at least through this month. He was part of the 2007 Warriors playoff team that ended a 12-year postseason drought.

“To come back 10 years later, the organization’s changed, players have changed, but to get a chance to be with this group of guys as well is going to be amazing,” Barnes said Wednesday after shootaround and before his first home game back with the Warriors at Oracle Arena against Boston.

Once the Sacramento Kings dealt DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans during the All-Star game last month, Barnes was ready to move forward and general manager Vlade Divac understood Barnes’ desire to join a winner.

“My mindset is, they’re starting over, and also my mind says I’m too old to start over,” Barnes said. “… It was just kind of a waiting game. I just stayed ready. I was working out in L.A., hanging out with my kids.”

The phone began ringing immediately – Durant called, Draymond Green, too. James Harden and so many others, from San Antonio to the champion Cavaliers.

All of those people reaching out meant so much to Barnes, who turns 37 on Thursday and is in his 14th NBA season.

“That’s what I kind of hang my hat on. I’ve obviously had a well-traveled career and there have been a lot of downs and some ups,” he said. “But I think to have the respect of the guys I play against, the guys I compete against, who are obviously some of the best guys in the game, to have those guys want me as a part of their team kind of says a lot for me where I kind of know that hey, at least I’ve done a pretty good job at some point.”

Barnes wanted to come back to a familiar place where he had a legitimate chance to chase a championship alongside a star-studded cast, including two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry. If all goes well, Durant could return for about the final two weeks of the regular season. Barnes will do his part, however small a role it might be, to fill the void in the meantime.

“Coming here was No. 1,” said Barnes, who spoke to Durant last summer about them both coming to the Bay Area. “With what they have going on, I want to come in and fit in, I don’t want to come in and stand out. I want to be a small part of hopefully something big in helping this team get another ring.”

Barnes brings a unique connection to the “We Believe” Warriors playoff team of 10 years ago, the Don Nelson-led group that earned the franchise’s first postseason berth since 1994 also under Nelson’s guidance.

“It feels amazing,” Barnes said. “It’s special for me to have a connection to this team. I think that `We Believe’ team kind of started something. Obviously this team came and picked it up and took it to the ultimate level. For myself to have a chance to come back and compete with these guys and hopefully help them get another one is a dream come true.”

Those ’07 Warriors stunned Dallas in a six-game first-round series before losing to Utah in the Western Conference semifinals.

Curry was a rookie two years later, and he appreciates what Barnes and that group did for Golden State.

“It is kind of cool,” Curry said of Barnes’ connection to the past. “When I first got here as a rookie that was the talk with everybody who came to the Warriors was, `Can you all duplicate what they did?’ To have a guy that lived that out and got the Warriors kind of on the map early on, it’s pretty special to have him back.”

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”


Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.