Dan Feldman

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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.”

Jaylen Brown insists he said nothing to Stephen Curry, calls taunting ‘cute’

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Stephen Curry hit a 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer over Jaylen Brown, pointed at Brown and made the chatter gesture with his hand.

Brown, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

“He just hit a shot,” Brown told CSNNE.com. “I didn’t say anything to him at all. He hit a good shot. I was playing good defense until I jumped on the head fake. But I didn’t say a word. I don’t know what it was.

Brown added, “I didn’t say anything to him; I didn’t open my mouth. He hit a good shot; it was cute. Let’s keep playing basketball.”

Maybe Brown didn’t say anything to Curry on that play. But the Celtics rookie spoke up after the Warriors won in Boston in November. In that game, Golden State center Zaza Pachulia hit a jumper and stopped for a painfully long celebration of smacking himself on the rear end like he were telling a horse to giddy up.

 

Brown then, via Darren Hartwell of NESN:

“Yeah, I felt it was a little disrespectful,” Brown said. “Like when Zaza was doing what he was doing? Yeah, I didn’t think that was too cool.

“But hey, man, they won the game at the end of the day, and next time we’ve got to come out and punch them in the mouth. Like not (literally) — figuratively.”

Brown and the Celtics did that, beating the Warriors with a big fourth quarter after Curry’s 3-pointer.

Manu Ginobili gets first technical foul in more than six years (video)

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Manu Ginobili playfully issued a technical foul to a referee a couple years ago for passing him the ball for a free throw before the Spurs guard was ready.

But Ginobili receiving a technical foul?

Before Ginobili was hit for one for arguing a call against the Kings last night, he hadn’t gotten one in more than six years.

His last technical came Jan. 26, 2011, part of a double technical with Raja Bell in a win over the Jazz.

San Antonio eventually rallied from down 28 to beat Sacramento, 114-104, yesterday. Maybe Ginobili’s fervor helped rally the Spurs?

Ginobili also got a delay-of-game technical foul in 2015, but like with the NBA’s technical-foul counter, I’m counting only unsportsmanlike technical fouls. Ginobili got one of those in the 2014 playoffs, but like most records, I’m counting only the regular season.

 

DeMarcus Cousins fined $50,000 for twice ‘directing inappropriate language towards fans’

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DeMarcus Cousins told a heckler in Los Angeles, “Suck a d—, b—-.”

Cousins told a heckler in Utah the next night, “Sit your fat a– down.”

That’ll cost the Pelicans center.

NBA release:

New Orleans Pelicans forward/center DeMarcus Cousins has been fined $50,000 for directing inappropriate language towards fans on separate occasions, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The problem here wasn’t totally what Cousins said, though the league doesn’t condone directing profanity at fans. Cousins’ problem was also getting caught on video.

There’s a reason he has been fined thrice this season for this. He’s not the only player to swear at fans. He just keeps doing it on camera, too often baited into costly interactions.

This all gets to the larger issue with Cousins.

These retorts are no big deal and really giving the hecklers exactly what they want. But these incidents are illustrative of someone who too often loses control. For better or worse, Cousins is outwardly emotional — and it’s too often for worse.

The best players learn when to internalize their anger and use it productively. Cousins hasn’t gotten there.

Dario Saric becomes odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year

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Will Joel Embiid still win Rookie of the Year despite playing just 31 games before being shut down for the season?

It’d be historic if he does, and I think he has a pretty good chance.

Bovada doesn’t believe bettors will see his case so strongly.

The gambling website favors fellow 76ers rookie Dario Saric over the field for Rookie of the Year. The full odds:

Remember, these aren’t meant to accurately reflect the true odds. The intent is to maximize Bovada’s profit, likely by spreading bets across multiple players reasonably evenly. So, odds like these usually reveal no wise choices.

But I’d bet on Embiid if I were a gambler. I think he has about a 55% chance of winning Rookie of the Year, making him a huge overlay.

Embiid was just so good in his limited minutes, and the 2016 draft class is off to a historically bad start. Even with Saric hot lately, conditions are ripe for Embiid to deserve Rookie of the Year.

Here’s how many times a rookie scored 20 points in a win this season:

  • Joel Embiid 11
  • Dario Saric 3
  • Jamal Murray 2
  • Eight others each 1

That’s not the ultimate stat for every situation, but I find it telling here — especially considering Embiid is an excellent defender. Embiid just impacted winning more in 31 games far more than any other rookie has has in a larger sample, to the point I doubt anyone else will catch him.

But will Rookie of the Year voters see it the same way?

I believe enough will. Some might knock him down a peg, but Embiid will wind up on many ballots. And there’s no clear alternative. Saric, Malcolm Brogdon, Murray, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown will split votes.

That said, this there’s no precedent for an award race like this. Perhaps, it’s prudent to be conservative with betting on it.

Don’t want to take the risk on Embiid at 15/4? OK. Just don’t bet on Saric at 1/2. That’s awful value.