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J.J. Barea wins NBA citizenship award for hurricane response in Puerto Rico

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Shortly after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September, Mavericks guard J.J. Barea returned to his native country:

“You go to Puerto Rico and fly in and look out the window and it’s beautiful. The water’s blue. People are moving and you feel the vibe. Yesterday, you look out the window and it was dead, completely dead. People are struggling. It was good to be there to help, but it was tough. We need a lot of help and it’s going to take awhile. It’s going to be a long, long process.

He became an active participant in that process, and for that, he won the NBA’s 2018 citizenship award.

NBA release:

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea has won the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, as administered and selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA).  The honor, named after the NBA’s second commissioner, is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.

Barea was one of five finalists for the award, along with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.  The finalists were chosen by a committee of 25 PBWA members from a list of 25 nominees submitted by NBA teams.  The winner was determined by a vote of the entire PBWA, which is composed of more than 200 writers and editors who cover the NBA on a regular basis for newspapers, magazines and websites.

A 12-year NBA veteran, Barea is being honored for his swift and sustained response to disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  Born and raised in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Barea married his wife, Viviana Ortiz, on the island in August 2016.  His parents and other family members live in Puerto Rico and were among those affected by the September storm.

“J.J. Barea’s impassioned and tireless efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico are inspiring and should spur us all to contribute in our own communities,” said PBWA President Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.  “PBWA members salute J.J., his fellow finalists and fellow nominees for their outstanding and heartfelt work.”

In the days immediately after Hurricane Maria, Barea coordinated five trips to the island and worked with partners in North Texas to deliver generators, food, water, clothing, medical supplies and other necessities.  He borrowed the Mavericks’ team plane from owner Mark Cuban to facilitate delivery.

In addition to providing more than 100,000 pounds of supplies, Barea helped organize financial support for families affected by the hurricane.  He has personally raised nearly $500,000 and launched a fundraiser on YouCaring.com that has generated nearly $270,000.  Barea also worked with the Mavericks to donate 100 percent of all single-game ticket sales from their Oct. 25 game against the Memphis Grizzlies, raising an additional $114,000 for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

In January, the J.J. Barea Foundation – which offers economic assistance to nonprofit entities in Puerto Rico – partnered with ofo, the world’s leading station-free bike-sharing company, to donate 600 bikes to help with transportation on the island.  After being shipped to Puerto Rico and assembled by the foundation with guidance and training from ofo, the bikes were distributed among the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico and communities along the Martín Peña Channel.

Barea, 33, averaged career highs of 11.6 points and 6.3 assists in 69 games (11 starts) for Dallas in the 2017-18 season.  The undrafted 6-foot guard has career averages of 8.9 points and 3.9 assists in 764 games, spending nine seasons with the Mavericks and three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Below is the complete list of winners of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

1974-75 Wes Unseld, Washington

1975-76 Slick Watts, Seattle

1976-77 Dave Bing, Washington

1977-78 Bob Lanier, Detroit

1978-79 Calvin Murphy, Houston

1979-80 Austin Carr, Cleveland

1980-81 Mike Glenn, New York

1981-82 Kent Benson, Detroit

1982-83 Julius Erving, Philadelphia

1983-84 Frank Layden, Utah

1984-85 Dan Issel, Denver

1985-86 Michael Cooper, L.A. Lakers, and Rory Sparrow, New York

1986-87 Isiah Thomas, Detroit

1987-88 Alex English, Denver

1988-89 Thurl Bailey, Utah

1989-90 Doc Rivers, Atlanta

1990-91 Kevin Johnson, Phoenix

1991-92 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1992-93 Terry Porter, Portland

1993-94 Joe Dumars, Detroit

1994-95 Joe O’Toole, Atlanta

1995-96 Chris Dudley, Portland

1996-97 P.J. Brown, Miami

1997-98 Steve Smith, Atlanta

1998-99 Brian Grant, Portland

1999-00 Vlade Divac, Sacramento

2000-01 Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia

2001-02 Alonzo Mourning, Miami

2002-03 David Robinson, San Antonio

2003-04 Reggie Miller, Indiana

2004-05 Eric Snow, Cleveland

2005-06 Kevin Garnett, Minnesota

2006-07 Steve Nash, Phoenix

2007-08 Chauncey Billups, Detroit

2008-09 Dikembe Mutombo, Houston

2009-10 Samuel Dalembert, Philadelphia

2010-11 Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers

2011-12 Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers

2012-13 Kenneth Faried, Denver

2013-14 Luol Deng, Cleveland

2014-15 Joakim Noah, Chicago

2015-16 Wayne Ellington, Brooklyn

2016-17 LeBron James, Cleveland

2017-18 J.J. Barea, Dallas

Good for Barea, and hopefully his efforts culminate in Puerto Ricans regaining their quality of life.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?

Spurs GM still optimistic relationship with Kawhi Leonard can be salvaged

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs.

He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged.

Leonard has requested a trade from San Antonio because he is unhappy after missing most of last season with a right quadriceps injury. Buford would not comment on “speculation” of a trade demand, but agreed there is a fractured relationship between Leonard and the only franchise he has played for.

“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to the organization and to the community and while none of wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him,” Buford said Thursday night as the Spurs made two late picks in the NBA Draft. “We’ll explore all of our options, but the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season but returned to play in nine games. He complained of discomfort and pain in the leg in his final game. Leonard sought an outside opinion after the Spurs cleared him to play, working with his own medical team in New York in an attempt to return to the court. The 6-foot-7 forward reportedly grew upset that the Spurs had questioned his rehabilitation process.

The Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year citing “injury management.” While San Antonio was in the playoffs, losing in the first round to eventual repeat champion Golden State, Leonard was rehabbing in New York – which meant that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked for the situation, deferred all comment to “Kawhi and his group.”

“I think all of us would wish that things would have gone differently,” Buford said.

The Spurs held a team meeting late in the season where veterans, led by Tony Parker, implored Leonard to return. Leonard said he was unable to due to the injury.

In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA defensive player of the year is due just over $20 million next season, and can become a free agent in the summer of 2019. He is eligible to sign a $220 million extension with San Antonio.

He is reportedly willing to walk away from that to play elsewhere, possibly in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this from today … he’s under contract for another year, our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time,” Buford said.