Kurt Helin

As expected, Clippers’ Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson will opt out of contracts, become free agents

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Almost every player that could become a free agent this summer should — the salary cap is about to spike by $22 million per team and the average player salary is about to jump with it. Opt out and it’s an almost guaranteed raise.

Austin Rivers made $3.1 million last season for the Clippers and averaged 8.9 points per game. Wesley Johnson made $1.1 million and averaged 6.9 per game. Big holes can be pointed out in both their games, but they both could expect raises on the open market this summer. Welcome to the new NBA.

So, they are opting out.

Clippers’ coach and GM Doc Rivers said he wants to bring all his free agents back, but it will depend on cost. It also depends on if he is serious about keeping the Clippers’ core together, or if he will explore making a bold move for a team that hasn’t been able to get out of the second round in the deep West.

I’m not sure Rivers will be in more demand anywhere else than with his father and the Clippers. They overpaid him a little last year and it wouldn’t be a shock to see it happen again.

Johnson will tempt some GM and land on his feet again, but likely on a short deal.

Stephen Curry takes Uber to get around Bay Area

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Much like living in Manhattan, if you live in the heart of the Bay Area owning a car can be a luxury. You don’t need it to get around — mass transit and taxis/Uber — can get you where you want to go, and without the challenge and expense of finding parking.

But if you have money — say, you’re Stephen Curry and making “just” $11.4 million this season, plus what Under Armour and other sponsors pay him — you can afford a car or three.

Curry, he still Ubers around town.

Wednesday during media availability Curry was asked about the buzz in the Bay Area with NBA Finals (starting Thursday), the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the big Copa America soccer tournament going on in Santa Clara, all this weekend. His answer turned heads.

“… I was in an Uber yesterday, and the guy was talking to me about all three different things going on, and just the excitement over that ten-minute drive that he had, that in a nutshell speaks volumes about how much sports means to the fans around here and excited to be a part of that and obviously on the court here at Oracle, but I’ll be watching the other two events as well.

Did you just say you were in an Uber?

“Of course (smiling).”

Curry is arguably the most recognizable face and biggest star in the Bay Area, or at least on par with Sergey Brin. So what is the reaction when he gets in the Uber?

“The Uber driver, I can’t really reenact it, but it was pretty funny,” Curry said. “I just kind of laugh and chuckle, because they are surprised that I’m getting in there too.”

Does Curry use Lyft too?

Just add this on to the “things that make Stephen Curry relatable” list, the one that makes him the biggest crossover star the game has today.

Watch Kevin Durant talk free agency, Game 7, Billy Donovan

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Kevin Durant had his exit interview with the media Wednesday. You can see the highlights of that above.

In it, Durant:

• Says he’s still in Game 7 mode, not free agency mode.

• Praises first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

• He expresses his pride in Oklahoma City the franchise and the city, calling it home.

• And, of course, he talks free agency priorities, “If I’m enjoying playing basketball, that’s the thing I really want to center everything around.”

Since apparently nobody can get enough “What is Kevin Durant thinking about free agency?” here are longer quotes from his exit interview on the topic:

It’s kind of hard to talk to one of my teammates. Obviously, we’ve been through a lot. We know each other very, very well. But it’s one of these things where I just, I’ve just got to hear from me and hear what I want and talk to myself on what I need and how I can make this thing work for myself and just try to be selfish a bit.

Obviously, I want to ask for advice. But also, I want to make the decision that’s best for me. I’m sure at some point, me and Russell will sit down and talk.

But he’s put no pressure on me. He’s been just great in this whole thing and just being my friend, and I think that’s one thing I needed throughout the whole year, throughout this whole process, is just people to be my friend and worry about me as a person.

Twenty-nine teams would love a chance to pitch Durant on why he should leave OKC and play for them instead, but this entire process starts with one very simple question:

Is Durant even going to listen to them?

Or is he just going to re-sign with Oklahoma City? Unless he opens the door most of this discussion is moot.

And if he does stay put — which is what the buzz around the league is will happen — then the question becomes does he sign a two-year deal with an opt-out next summer (the most likely option) or does he take the five-year deal?

Could Paul George be on the NBA 2K17 cover with Kobe Bryant?

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It was announced last April that Kobe Bryant would be on the “Legends” cover of NBA 2K17 next fall. Which makes sense, because Kobe still sells.

The question is what current NBA player would join him?

Could be Paul George, if you believe a pre-order listing for NBA 2K that was on the Sony site (which has since been taken down).

This is a leak, not something official, obviously, but with the announcement expected to drop on Wednesday an accidental leak onto a website seems like the kind of thing that could happen.

George had a great story last season, returning to be near the top of the NBA’s best two-way players list, and carrying the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs, just a couple years removed from a gruesome leg injury. He was an All-Star and All-NBA third team averaging 23.1 points and 7 rebounds a game.

George re-established himself as one of the biggest stars in the NBA last season, so this seems fitting.

But we were going to buy the game anyway.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Will Harrison Barnes start for Warriors or come off bench? Even he doesn’t know.

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In Game 7, looking to provide a little more defense, Steve Kerr moved Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup and had Harrison Barnes come off the bench. Iguodala also provides another ball handler, and his presence seems to settle the Warriors down on offense. Iguodala played 43 minutes, Barnes 22 (but he was +7 in those minutes).

Last year in the Finals, Iguodala was Golden State’s primary and best defender on LeBron James.

Which makes one wonder, will Iguodala or Barnes start for the Warriors Thursday? Barnes himself said he had “no idea,” speaking on radio station 95.7 The Game, as transcribed by Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News.

“I’m going to be ready to play Game 1 of the Finals whether I play 20 minutes off the bench, whether I start and play 35,” Barnes said. “Whatever it is, I’m going to do my job because there is no better feeling than hoisting that championship trophy.”

The Warriors have bought into a culture of sacrifice — role players such as Barnes will give up minutes or shots if it gets the team closer to a win. This is rare enough in the NBA, but Barnes is a restricted free agent this summer and plenty of players would be looking to put up numbers to make sure they get paid rather than thinking big picture and happily following what the coach says.

Barnes will get paid no matter what — he’s the kind of player a number of teams with cap space will try to poach. With Draymond Green and Klay Thompson already paid handsomely, and Stephen Curry up for a max next summer, it’s not going to be easy for the Warriors to keep everyone together. If the Warriors match deals to keep Barnes and Festus Ezeli this summer (also a restricted free agent), it will not be easy to pay Andrew Bogut and Iguodala next summer. There are decisions to make. (And that’s all assuming Kevin Durant stays in OKC and doesn’t decide to come West.)

All of this means Barnes is going to make a lot of money somewhere next season; the only question is will he have one championship ring or two. He’s willing to make sacrifices to get the second.