Wojnarowski: Barnes to sign with Lakers unless Cleveland ups offer

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According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Matt Barnes will sign a one-year deal with the Lakers unless Cleveland raises its multi-year offer to Barnes, which starts at $3.5 million a year. 
If Barnes does choose to take less money and sign with the Lakers, it would be a great discount pickup for the defending champions. 
Barnes is known as a three-and-D guy, but reputation as a defensive stopper is a bit overstated; Barnes hustles on defense, and did manage to get under Kobe’s skin that one game, but he’s never really been an upper-echelon perimeter defender. Barnes also isn’t a lights-out three-point shooter; he only shot 32% from beyond the arc last season, and is a 33% three-point shooter for his career. 
What Barnes does bring is versatility. He’s a solid defender who can defend multiple positions, he can shoot the three or put the ball on the floor, he’s a good rebounder for his frame, he knows his limitations as well as he knows his strengths, he’s comfortable in the full-court game, and he plays the game with savvy and toughness. 
For the Lakers, Barnes’ versatility would make him a perfect fit. He wouldn’t take possessions away from the Lakers’ superstars, he could lighten the load on both Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant, he’d be a good fit in the triangle, and he would give the Lakers the freedom to let Shannon Brown leave in free agency. 
For the Cavaliers, Barnes represents something different. Barnes fills two needs for the Cavaliers: he’s a small forward, and he has experience playing uptempo basketball. Byron Scott is trying to turn the Cavaliers into a running team, and Barnes’ versatility made him a valuable cog for both the Warriors and the Suns. 
Signing Barnes for real money could also be Dan Gilbert’s way of telling the league that he plans on fielding competitive teams instead of going into full rebuilding mode and waiting to win the lottery again. If the Cavaliers get Barnes, add a quality playmaker, and everything goes right for them, they could sneak into the playoffs with 40-45 wins next season. 
Barnes is what he is: a 30-year old role player who can play multiple positions and adapt his game to any system. The Lakers want to pay Barnes role player money and use him as a role player. If Barnes agrees, it will be another great signing for the defending champs. 
On the Cleveland side of things, $3.5 million over multiple years is about the upper limit of what Barnes is worth, especially since Barnes won’t turn Cleveland into a contender. Cleveland wants to show everyone that they’re serious about competing next season, but overpaying Barnes won’t make him into a player he’s not. 

Tom Thibodeau on Timberwolves not getting first-rounder in Jimmy Butler trade: ‘Getting good players was a priority’

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The Heat offered Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. The Rockets offered four first-round picks or Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks. The Pelicans reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick.

But the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a deal that included no first-round picks and Minnesota getting only one second-rounder.

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau:

We wanted quality players. I think that that was important for us.

When you look at, to get two starters off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young, and they’re going to get better, and they’re both very good defensively. They both shoot the 3, so we think they fit well with the guys that we do have.

And so once we once got to that point where felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal.

It was what was best for the organization. Obviously, getting good players was a priority. But the pick part is important, and we felt we got a good pick from Philly.

It was what does it mean for the team? If you get two rotational players, that’s good. And then if you can get a pick, that allows you to do more things. And so I think that’s all part of it. You always try to think about what the possibilities could be.

Thibodeau might have taken the best offer for the the Timberwolves by the time he actually accepted a deal. Miami pulled the Richardson offer after his strong start to the season. Getting four first-rounders from Houston required taking Brandon Knight‘s negative-value contract, and it’s unclear exactly how the picks were protected. New Orleans has the best record of those three teams, so an unprotected pick carries less value.

But it’s also impossible to overlook Thibodeau’s present-minded attitude. That’s how he already approached everything. Now, he appears to be coaching for his job this season. Nobody ever expected him to prioritize long-term assets.

Covington and Saric are good players, but Minnesota was also 4-9 at the time of the trade. Are Covington and Saric good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of this hole and into the playoffs? It’s a tough ask. In 2020-21, Saric will be up for a big raise, and the Timberwolves already have a lot of money committed. They might have to downgrade the rest of the roster to keep Saric and avoid the luxury tax. This is a narrow window for Minnesota to get value from this trade.

That said, blame Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for creating this situation. By allowing Thibodeau to remain in charge without much job security, Taylor is practically demanding Thibodeau emphasize the present. If Taylor wanted draft picks, he should have fired Thibodeau earlier.

Caris LeVert suffers injury so horrific, it brings teammates to tears and opponents to prayer (video)

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Caris LeVert has been one of the Nets’ biggest bright spots. The hard-working 24-year-old was a Most Improved Player candidate, and he seems well-liked throughout the organization. He’s even already hit a couple gamewinners this season.

But LeVert’s breakout campaign hit a devastating snag tonight, as he injured his leg.

The reactions of both his Brooklyn teammates and the Timberwolves say everything. This is a tough one.

Markelle Fultz takes ugly pump-fake free throw

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A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?

Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.

Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.

But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.