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. 

Kevin Durant keeps building up superstar accolades with second All-Star MVP

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CHARLOTTE – When Kevin Durant won All-Star MVP in 2012, he was asked whether he considered himself a star, a label he had resisted.

“I wouldn’t say that just yet,” Durant said. “Hopefully. Hopefully soon I can say that.”

The notion was silly then. Durant had already made two All-NBA first teams and finished second for MVP.

But that All-Star MVP started to change how Durant presented himself. He made another All-NBA first team, again finished second for MVP and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals that season.

“In 2012, I started to feel like I started to hit that elite level,” Durant said. “All that stuff in one year was pretty exciting to me.”

The hits have kept rolling since.

Durant has added an MVP, two titles and two Finals MVPs. Tonight, he claimed another All-Star MVP. The Warriors star scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to lead LeBron James‘ team to a 178-164 win.

“I just keep trying to rack them up, I guess,” Durant said.

That’s seven years between his All-Star MVPs. Few players sustain that elite level – starring among stars – so long. Only LeBron James (12 years), Michael Jordan (10 years), Kobe Bryant (nine years), Oscar Robertson (eight years) have gone so long between their first and last All-Star MVPs.

Durant, 30, appears to have plenty left in the tank.

Of course, the impending question: Where? Durant can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and this weekend included plenty of speculation.

Tonight’s game gave Knicks fans reason to fanaticize. New York’s presumed targets with its double-max cap space, Durant and Kyrie Irving showed strong chemistry. Half Durant’s baskets were assisted by Irving, who sent five of his six assists to Durant (the other an alley-oop to former teammate LeBron).

Asked which of his All-Star teammates he best meshed with, Durant refused to name one.

“You don’t really have to do too much when you’re playing with so many great players,” Durant said. “You can do what you’re just best at.”

Team LeBron starts playing defense first, comes from 20 down to win All-Star Game

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s All-Star Game, Team LeBron started to care.

Down 20 at one point early in the third, Team LeBron came out of a mid-quarter timeout with a different energy. The “bench” guys on the court started defending with the kind of relative intensity usually reserved for the final minutes of this exhibition (when it’s close), the players on the bench were standing and cheering like it was a playoff game, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal started knocking down everything, and the game just shifted. It culminated when Damian Lillard tied the game up with a 35-foot three.

Team LeBron kept up the momentum, owned the fourth as Durant went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc in the quarter, and Team LeBron got the win 178-164.

“It was our second unit that came in — Dame, Klay, Brad Beal, LaMarcus, Ben Simmons, KAT,” LeBron said after the game about what turned the momentum. “They came in and just changed the whole complexion of the game. We got stops, and, obviously, Dame and Klay caught fire from beyond the arc, and that allowed us to get back in the game.”

Durant was named MVP, a clear choice with his second-half play in particular.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul George showed anyone that hasn’t seen him this season how well he’s playing — MVP conversation level — on his way to 20.

This All-Star Game opened with the level of defensive intensity we have come to expect in All-Star Games. Which is to say none.

Well, except when Stephen Curry was guarding Klay Thompson.

The one guy who was intense from the start was Antetokounmpo, who scored the first six points for Team Giannis. He didn’t slow down on his way to 20 first-half points, plus he had one of the game’s great highlights on a bounce pass alley-oop from Curry.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only Buck hot to start, Khris Middleton entered the game midway through the first quarter and drained three shots from beyond the arc in a row. In the first nine minutes of the game, the Bucks were beating Team LeBron 28-27.

The favorite crowd moment of the first half was when future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki walked on the court and splashed a couple of threes.

Dwyane Wade was the other Commissioner addition to the game, which means for one last time we got Wade throwing the alley-oop to LeBron.

Curry struggled late, going 3-of-11 in the fourth, but he still got to rub it in Thompson’s face a little.

“It was good to see Steph knock that shot down over Klay, because Klay is always talking trash to him,” Durant said after the game.

Team Giannis was in control most of the first half and was up 13 (95-82) at the half, not that 13 points is much of a deficit in the All-Star Game. Not when one team started to care.

Stephen Curry gets four-point play after Klay Thompson foul, Curry does some taunting

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stephen Curry is enjoying going against Klay Thompson. Maybe a little too much.

In the first half, Curry was matched up on his Warriors’ backcourt mate and enjoyed that Thompson missed the shot.

Then in the fourth quarter, with the game tight, Curry drained the contested three and drew the and-1 on Thompson — and did a little taunting.

That’s some All-Star fun.

Stephen Curry bounces alley-oop way above rim, Giannis Antetokounmpo slams it down (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Stephen Curry bounced this so high!

I suppose it helps that Giannis Antetokounmpo has such ridiculous reach.