Kurt Helin

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Harrison Barnes would “love” to stay in Golden State this summer, but who knows

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Is Harrison Barnes worth a max contract?

Golden State’s starting small forward is a restricted free agent this summer, in a market awash with cash. He’s young, athletic, has been to the mountaintop, and is exactly the kind of player other teams will try to poach. But doing that — and keeping him — will mean max or near max money.

Will Golden State match? It depends on a lot of things, including in part what Kevin Durant decides.

How is Barnes dealing with it? He spoke to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

“It’s out of my control,” Barnes said. “People say, ‘Do you want to be here in Golden State?’ A lot of it is, look, I love Golden State. I’d love to be here. But there’s also some other factors that factor into that, you know what I’m saying?”

If Durant decides to listen to other teams, the Warriors have long been reported to be at the front of the line. But if they add another max salary — and they will have to give Stephen Curry one in the 2017 summer — keeping Barnes is almost out of the question.

However, if Durant is not in the picture, expect the Warriors to match — why would you break up this core? Durant would be the only reason. The Warriors would like to keep Barnes, even at a steep price. He’s a starter on a team that very well could have two rings soon. Continuity has value.

For Barnes, that may be max value.

Reports: Kings’ “deflated” when George Karl wasn’t fired, Joerger setting new tone

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The Sacramento Kings desperately want to turn the page on the past 10 seasons — they are moving into a new building and see that as a new era and a chance to change the dynamic around the team.

They also have a new coach in Dave Joerger they are counting on to lead that change.

Caron Butler was on the kings Last season and was on ESPN’s First Take Friday, and talked about the impact former coach George Karl had on the locker room (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“As players, from All-Star break and everything, I mean, as far as we knew, he was fired. We’re in Philadelphia a game before All-Star break and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘You’re not moving [on], I’m coming back.’ It was deflating to the locker room, it was deflating to the guys, and we tried to move forward and tried to do the best that we possibly could. But that was deflating to the team, it was a big blow and it was tough to move forward.”

Everyone in the locker room and, frankly, around the league knew the Karl/DeMarcus Cousins relationship was doomed. From the start. The franchise needed to move on.

Joerger is trying to move on, trying to create a new culture. So far so good, at least to hear Willie Cauley-Stein say it. Here is what he told Jared Zwerling on the NBPA’s website:

“Yeah, I’ve spoken with him. A lot of it is just expanding my game out, allowing me to become something instead of being labeled as something. He’s giving me a chance to label myself, whereas other coaches in the past that automatically label you as something else.”

We’ll see if he and the organization can carry some of that momentum into the fall.

Gordon Gund selling his 15% stake in Cleveland Cavaliers

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Want to be LeBron James‘ boss?

Have an extra $160 million lying around?

Then we have a deal for you. Former Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Gordon Gund is selling his 15 percent minority stake in the team, reports Bloomberg.

Billionaire venture capitalist Gordon Gund is selling his 15 percent stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, who for the second year in a row are playing for the NBA championship, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The pro basketball franchise best known for four-time MVP LeBron James is worth about $1.1 billion, said valuations expert Peter Schwartz. The stake held by Gund, who owned the Cavaliers from 1983 to 2005, is worth as much as $160 million, said Schwartz, a presidential research scholar at New York University. Gund, 76, and his late brother, George, sold their controlling interest in the team to a group led by Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert in 2005 for about $375 million.

Gund may have sold the majority of the team a little early, the way the value of NBA franchises have skyrocketed (although they bought the team in 1983 for $20 million, so they turned a tidy profit). However, right now he’s not rumored to be the only owner (majority or minority) considering cashing in their chips.

My guess is he will have little trouble finding a buyer. The challenge for minority owners is they tend to be people who are captains of industry (it’s why they have $160 million to spend on a hobby) who are used to getting their way, but as minority owner they don’t have control. Dan Gilbert has the ultimate hammer. He will listen to them, talk to them, but ultimately decide to do what he thinks is best. The minority owner, however, still get to help pay the bills. That can lead to tension.

We’ll see who wants to own a part of the Cavaliers. So long as LeBron is there, the franchise value will remain very, very high.

Russell Westbrook on what Thunder need to improve: “Mental toughness”

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The Oklahoma City Thunder played a brilliant series against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. It was the toughest test the defending champions have faced in their two-season run. By far.

Yet there is a narrative that the Thunder choked, something even Jason Terry said on his new show on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

“In that type of situation, late game situations, yeah, you choked.  I mean, let’s just be honest.  I mean, those are my guys and I’m going to tell you that first hand but, yeah, they choked.  And the thing about it is, it’s bad habits.  I mean, these are the same type of habits they had throughout the season when they gave up a historic number of fourth-quarter comebacks they allowed to happen.  It came back and bit them again in that series.”

To me, “choked” is too strong a word and discounts the superhuman effort and shotmaking of Klay Thompson in Game 6 — if he’s not hitting every ridiculous shot he throws up the Thunder do win. That said, the Thunder did revert to bad habits — they tried to run the clock down and started plays with not enough time to get to second options, and they ran too much isolation. They became defendable. That opened the door.

Russell Westbrook owned up to that in his exit interview. He was asked what the Thunder need to do to improve for next season in his exit interview and gave an honest answer, as reported by The Oklahoman.

“Mental toughness,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten very, very well at that point, but I think to make the next step, we have to constantly do that throughout the whole season, not just late in the playoffs, because I thought we turned the page when it got to this time of year, but I think if we constantly keep that from start to finish, it makes it easier for us in certain situations.”

He’s right. And how the series against Golden State ended may help teach the Thunder that lesson.

The Thunder are legitimate contenders to win the NBA title next season. Providing they can keep Kevin Durant. But painful losses on the doorstep can sear lessons into teams — think 2014 San Antonio Spurs, coming off that loss to Miami in the Finals (and the Ray Allen shot). That could be the Warriors next season.

James Harden doesn’t know why he didn’t make All-NBA Team

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Generally speaking, if you put up numbers 29 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per game, you are going to make one of the All-NBA teams.

Not James Harden. Not this season.

And he doesn’t get it, as Harden told Jason Terry on the latter’s new show on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

“I mean, there’s no answer for me. I don’t know. That’s something that I’ve been thinking about…

“But like I said, man, you know, it wasn’t a good year.”

Harden certainly put up numbers, and the Rockets did slip into the playoffs on the final night of the season, but the team was a disappointment from opening day — remember they started 0-3 and all the losses were by at least 20 points — and Harden was a big part of that.

He didn’t show up to training camp in shape and ready, he was inconsistent, and over the course of a full season the Rockets followed that lead. Also, while Harden scored a lot, his defense slid back into atrocious old habits. Harden had improved as a defender two seasons ago — not great, but better and playing within the team concept — but that went out the window this season. All of it got Kevin McHale fired (that and Harden didn’t like him), but the slow start wasn’t on the coach. The Rockets won 15 fewer games than the season before, and Harden needs to accept the blame for a lot of that.

Which is why he didn’t make the All-NBA Teams. He came close, but he finished behind guys such as Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowry in the voting for guards, in part because their teams exceeded expectations and the Rockets did the opposite.

Maybe next season under Mike D’Antoni — and with Dwight Howard playing elsewhere — things will change for Harden next season.