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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.”

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.


Tuesday’s win gives Wizards first division crown since 1979

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Divisions are almost forgotten in the NBA. They exist still as quaint reminders of days gone by, but they don’t matter other than as a potential tie breaker with a non-division-winning team. Winning your division doesn’t even guarantee a team a playoff spot anymore.

Yet, the last time Washington had won a division title they were in the Atlantic division and when you turned on the radio you were likely to hear that new hit Heart Of Glass by Blondie. It was 1979.

That was until Tuesday when John Wall led a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers to get the Wizards the win and the SouthEast division title.

According to CBSSports.com, that 38-year division title drought was longer than any team in any major U.S. professional sports — NHL, NFL, and MLB.

Congrats to the Wizards. They also have locked up home court in the first round, and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (who they face in the first round is up in the air still as only three games separate seeds five through nine).

With Scott Brooks at the helm this feels like a far more dangerous — and healthy — team heading into the postseason. Wizards fans have waited a lot time for a team like this.

Report: Pacers waive Rodney Stuckey, will likely add player before playoffs

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Rodney Stuckey was having a down year for the Pacers when he was healthy, averaging 7.2 points and 2.2 assists per game, with a well below average 48.3 true shooting percentage. Stuckey also was not healthy often, playing in just 39 games.

The Pacers are banged up — Glenn Robinson III and Al Jefferson are hurt — and need a healthy body on the roster for the playoffs, plus they weren’t going to pick up Stuckey’s $7 million option for next season anyway, so they chose to wave him Wednesday, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.

The question now is who the Pacers bring in to fill that spot. With Jefferson down, do they lean on someone they know in Tyler Hansbrough? Is there someone out of the D-League or free agent pool that intrigues them?

The Pacers need to do something to start winning some games and making Paul George happy.

Paul George on Pacers after loss: “No sense of urgency, no winning pride”

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Indiana still has a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs (according to fivethirtyeight.com), they are two games clear of the nine seed with seven games to play.

But they fell to that seventh seed with a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, an evening that Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Miami all won. Chicago is the nine seed right now, lurking with its soft schedule, and looking for another team to slip up, and in a key game Indiana did.

The Pacers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night despite being at home and having a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Indy had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns, who dropped 37. Paul George had 37 points as well, and afterwards pissed and frustrated would be good words to describe his mood. Here’s his quote, via Nate Taylor at the Indy Star.

“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” George said of losing to the Timberwolves (29-44). “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit and we’ve got to own up, man up….

“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride,” he said. “This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”

If you don’t have urgency playing for your playoff lives with seven games left in the season, when will you have it?

Yes, this was a frustrated George venting after a loss. However, it also points again to the challenges Larry Bird and the Pacer front office have this summer — George wants to win, wants to play for a contender. Or if not that, maybe in his hometown. If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team (he likely just misses out, forward is a stacked position in the league right now) and the Pacers can’t offer him a “designated player” max, Indiana needs to put a contender around him, or consider trading him so they don’t lose him for nothing in a year. Both of those options present challenges come July.

In the short term, the Pacers need to make the playoffs. Even if they do, play like this against the Cavaliers (their current first-round matchup) or any of the other top-four teams in the East and Indy’s stay in the postseason will be short and uneventful.