Kurt Helin

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 05:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 5, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Mark Cuban thinks Harrison Barnes can flourish with more responsibilities


Harrison Barnes is a max player. That was going to happen this summer as a function of the market and timing.

Is Barnes ready to be a top two scoring option on a quality team? That is up for debate.

Plenty of front office people around the league are not convinced. Barnes flourished in a system where he was the fourth option and Stephen Curry‘s gravity drew defenders well away from him. What happens when he is the focal point of a defense’s attention? What happens when he has the ball in his hands, the pick is set for him, and he has to create shots for himself and others? He hasn’t thrived in that role up to now.

We will find out this season, but Mark Cuban is understandably optimistic. Here is what he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“You’re going to see a lot more to his game than you’ve seen in the past,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “I think he can do a lot more than he’s been asked to do, and that’s what we expect to see. … Maybe not first year, but I think he’s going to grow into [the role of go-to guy]. Just because a guy hasn’t done things doesn’t mean he can’t do it.”

Cuban makes a good point here — Barnes is still young and growing, and he needs to be given time to grow into this new role. Barnes may struggle with his added responsibilities this November and December, but where is he in April? Next December? Can he grow into this role?

Cuban needs to be optimistic he can because he bet big on it happening. I’m far from convinced, but Barnes is going to get the chance, and no coach will put him in better positions than Rick Carlisle.

J.J. Redick will have none of Adam Silver’s competitive balance complaints

Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) reacts after making a 3-point shot during the overtime period of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. The Clippers won 140-132 in overtime. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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“I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two super teams, that it’s a huge television attraction. I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear.”

That was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, talking about Kevin Durant‘s move to the Golden State Warriors. While the main battle during the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks was about money (make no mistake, that is always topic No. 1, and frankly No. 2 and No. 3), a sideline was Silver’s push for “competitive balance.” To flatten out the NBA’s talent pool. To give everyone a chance. Parity of a sort. That was a stated goal.

Clippers guard J.J. Redick is having none of what Silver is selling.

Redick nails it in those last two tweets.

There have always been superteams in the NBA — and those have been good for the NBA. When was the NBA the most popular? When Jordan’s Bulls were clear and away the best team in the land and 29 other teams played catch-up. The golden age of the 1980s saw two superteams that often met in epic Finals clashes. It keeps going back to the Celtics of the 1960s.

What is different about the Heat and Warriors’ superteams is that fans see them as not “organic” — rather than being put together by wealthy white owners and GMs pulling invisible strings, the players themselves made conscious choices and controlled their own destiny. That kind of player power clearly bothers some people. We’re not bothered by the superteams of the past, but now it’s a problem? What changed? Players chose them, they took charge of their own fate. “Larry Bird never left the Celtics” arguments are foolish because before 1988 there was no free agency as we understand it in the NBA. Guys basically couldn’t move teams if the team wanted to keep them. Somehow something we would never accept in our own lives or in society — whatever job you take right out of college, that company gets to keep you forever — is the ideal we expect of athletes.

Silver works at the pleasure of and speaks for the owners. And 28 of them (well, maybe 27, let’s not count Mark Cuban in that group) are not happy. Why are they not happy? Because they don’t have the superteam in their city. So suddenly it’s not fair. And a bunch of guys who praise the free market and want fewer restrictions on them in their other businesses will call for measures seen in socialism to “balance the power.”

Good on Redick for calling it what it is.

Grizzlies’ Conley says big contract won’t affect his play

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 21:  Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts after hitting a three-point basket in the final minutes of their 82-81 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 21, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading andor using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies wanted to keep Mike Conley so much that they gave their veteran point guard the richest contract in NBA history.

For Conley, the basketball – and pressure – is in his court after signing a five-year, $153 million deal Thursday.

Conley’s play will be closely monitored during an upcoming season in which he will earn more than new Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, a seven-time All-Star with four league scoring titles and an NBA Most Valuable Player award. Durant signed a two-year, $54.3 million deal.

Conley doesn’t expect the lucrative deal to affect his play.

“It’s amazing the opportunity I’ve been given,” Conley said. “As far as the pressure, it’s hard to really gauge that because I put pressure on myself to perform regardless. The amount of money I make is not going to change how I approach the game. I’m going to continue to be aggressive and do a lot better than I did last season and the season before.”

Conley, a 28-year-old point guard, has played nine seasons with the Grizzlies during which he has averaged 13.5 points and 5.6 assists. He led the Grizzlies to the 2013 Western Conference finals, the farthest the franchise has advanced in the postseason.

“I’ll take the heat right now (on being the highest-paid NBA player),” Conley said. “Eventually, it will all die down. Two years from now everybody else will be making so much more.”

In Conley’s non-All-Star selection defense, he has played in the Western Conference during his career with point guards Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker and Steve Nash.

“He’s our All-Star,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. “He’s an elite point guard in this league. It’s unanimous around the league that he’s one of the top-tier players at his position, a very crucial position.”

At an on-court ceremony at FedExForum celebrating the signing, Conley announced he was donating $1 million to the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aids at-risk youth in the community. The $1 million was matched by the franchise’s ownership group led by majority owner Robert Pera.

Conley used the press conference – also attended by Grizzlies MVP season-ticket holders – to address the recent tragedy in Dallas, where five policemen were killed by a lone gunman, and the nationwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’m a quiet guy, I’m very reserved,” he said. “At the same time, as much as I want to lead by example, I know when it’s time to speak up. Right now is that time … It’s not about money, we have to be on the forefront to set examples for the kids. We need to become mentors for the youth.”

Conley has battled injuries the past few seasons and appeared in only 56 games last season because of an Achilles tendon injury. He hasn’t played more than 73 games in any of the past three seasons.

“I’ve concentrated solely on (staying healthy) during the offseason,” Conley said. “I want to be healthy. I want to be able to be here every night and give everything I’ve got. I’m doing everything I can to be able to do that.”

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, who has been an All-Star selection, had the previous richest contract in league history when he signed a five-year deal last year worth approximately $145 million.

Others who have signed max contracts without All-Star game appearances include the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter. Beal signed a $128 million deal this offseason. Utah matched an offer sheet from Charlotte for Hayward worth $63 million for four years in 2014, while Oklahoma City matched Portland’s max four-year deal for Kanter last summer for $70 million.

“We’re in the era of the point guard,” Wallace said. “There’s probably never been a greater collection. But we know Mike’s value.

“We have nine years invested in him. And he’s just gotten better and better. He’ll thrive in (new) coach (David) Fizdale’s offense. We never gave a second thought other than doing what it took to get him.”

LA Clippers sign draft pick Diamond Stone

Los Angeles Clippers' Diamond Stone (0) makes an uncontested dunk against the New York Knicks during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers signed center Diamond Stone, their 40th overall pick in this year’s draft, on Thursday.

He averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his only season at Maryland, where the 6-foot-11 center set the school freshman record with 39 points against Penn State on Dec. 30, 2015.

Stone averaged 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in five games with the Clippers’ team in the Orlando Summer League.

Earlier this week, the team signed forward Brice Johnson, the 25th overall draft pick, and free agent center-forward Marreese Speights.

Report: Clippers near deal to send C.J. Wilcox to Magic for Devyn Marble, pick

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 05:  C.J. Wilcox #30 of the Los Angeles Clippers makes an outside shot over D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers  during an NBA game between Los Angeles Clippers vs Los Angeles Lakers April 5, 2016 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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We have a trade.

Not one that matters outside who will sit on the end of which bench next season, but a trade nonetheless.

The Clippers and Magic are exchanging shooting guards who struggle to shoot, a trade broken by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

The Magic get C.J Wilcox, who has played just 268 minutes across two seasons for the Clippers and bounced between the NBA and the D-League in that time. He is athletic, and he can shoot the three — he hit 38.4 percent from there last season — however, he shot a lot of long twos and hit just 39.8 percent on his shots inside the arc. Because of his athleticism there is a chance he could develop into an end-of-the-rotation guy. Maybe he gets the run to show off what he can do in Orlando.

Devyn Marble got in just 28 games for the Magic last season, and considering he’ll be behind J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford in the rotation he’s not going to get a lot of run with the Clippers, either. Marble took 45 percent of his shots from three last season and hit just 25 percent of them. He had a woeful True Shooting Percentage of 38.6 percent.

The Clippers probably wanted the future pick more than anything in this deal.