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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.

Kyrie Irving says he hasn’t talked with Jimmy Butler about joining Knicks

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If you listen to some people, they believe that NBA stars are constantly scheming to end up together on certain teams, years in advance of their pending free agency. That was partially the case for the Miami Heat when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh teamed up together. But we can’t always verify what players are talking about together, and of course they are free to have those conversations. NBA players have more agency than ever in 2018.

One rumor that has been floating around the NBA sphere as of late is the idea of disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler pairing up with current Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving on the New York Knicks next season. Butler has an option to get out of his current contract at the end of 2019, as does Irving.

Things are getting messy with Butler out in Minnesota, with the latest news being that owner Glen Taylor has decided to circumvent his front office team and offer Butler up for trade himself. Meanwhile, Irving still has not signed an extension with the Celtics, which has some fans in Boston nervous.

Of course, someone was going to have to give Irving the chance to respond to the rumors that he wants to team up with Butler, and Jackie MacMullan over at ESPN did just that in a recent feature with the Celtics star. For his part, Irving says that he has not spoken with Butler about teaming up or anything related to career decisions since 2016.

Via ESPN:

Irving said he’s aware that he’s been linked to Jimmy Butler in persistent free-agent rumors regarding a mutual desire to play together in New York, but he said he’s had no such discussions with Butler. In fact, he said, the last time he talked to Butler at length was when they were both playing with USA Basketball, and the two engaged in a spitballing session along with Durant and Cousins about what the future held for each of them.

“And that,” Irving laughed, “was in 2016.”

Players publicly denying things that could actually be true is nothing new. Readers can take Irving at his word, or continue to be suspicious. It’s your prerogative to decide, although admittedly there are few external factors that will help you confirm whether two players will actually end up on a team in this manner together.

Set aside whether actual planning has gone on: As we have seen with players like Paul George, the expanse of the NBA season can change sentiments for where players would like to play in the future. Nothing is set in stone, even if it feels that way.

At least one report has said that Butler’s interest in the Knicks has been overstated, and that he would like to win now rather than later. Certainly, adding him and Irving to the New York roster would help them move up a few rungs, but it’s unclear whether it would put the Knicks on top of major competition in the Eastern Conference.

For now, we have to sit tight and wait and see where Butler will end up. We likely won’t have to wait more than a few days.

Add Cavs, Blazers, Wizards, Bucks to list of teams calling about Jimmy Butler

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The Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota has been difficult to track the past couple of days. No doubt that’s due to the irregular nature of the potential transaction, with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor circumventing his front office to seek a trade for Butler.

It was reported Saturday that several teams were interested in Butler, including some of the teams the star shooting guard reportedly prefers to land. That list included Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, the LA Clippers, Miami and Philadelphia.

Now, you can add several more teams to the list who have at least placed phone calls to Minnesota now that they know Butler is available to be dealt.

According to multiple reports, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Washington Wizards are interested in seeing what they can do to add Butler to their roster.

Trading for Butler at this juncture is a tenuous balance for all parties. Butler can opt out of his current deal at the end of the season, and is expected to do as much. That means teams must be certain that Butler is going to re-sign with them, or be happy with his rental for whatever assets they decide to give up. It puts the Timberwolves in a tough situation as well, where they won’t to get fair exchange for Butler’s overall worth.

We don’t have many details on actual offers just yet. Things seem to be a bit hectic in Minneapolis and new information is still streaming in. Training camp for the Timberwolves starts on Tuesday, and reports say that they would like to have Butler out of town by then.

What teams are willing to give up is another factor, and that self-imposed timeframe could widen what Taylor sees as a good return for Butler.

For example, any deal for Butler with the Blazers would not include Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, or Jusuf Nurkic, according to NBC Sports Northwest’s Dwight Jaynes. That leaves some value for the Timberwolves, including Al-Farouq Aminu or perhaps Maurice Harkless. But if Portland is reportedly not willing to give up any of their most important core, you can expect other teams are heading to Taylor’s door with similar offers.

More teams being added to the potential list of Butler landing spots is not surprising. When a superstar becomes available, just about every general manager will at least place a courtesy call to the trading office. It doesn’t help that Taylor appears publicly to be in a position of little leverage, so no doubt rival general managers are licking their chops to try to snag Butler away for cheap.

Keep your eyes peeled. This one is going to happen quick.

Knicks reportedly near deal to waive, stretch Joakim Noah, making him free agent

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The Joakim Noah era with the Knicks is finally, mercifully coming to an end.

Back in the summer of 2016 — the summer when NBA GMs spent like a drunk sailor on shore leave — the Knicks’ Phil Jackson looked at Joakim Noah, who had played 29 games the season before due to injury and was showing the wear and tear of Tom Thibodeau miles on him, and thought “I should give him four years, $72.6 million because he will totally bounce back to Defensive Player of the Year form.” In the two year’s since Noah has played in 53 games total, and while he can still grab some boards when he gets on the court, he is not near the defensive force he once was, and he was never a great offensive player.

The Knicks are finally moving on and doing so in the next 48 hours, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at The Athletic.

Much like the Luol Deng move by the Lakers, this is about freeing up cap space for next summer for the Knicks. New York will pay his full $18.5 million salary for this season, then stretch his final season of $19.3 million over three seasons, which works out to about $6.43 million a season on the books. That is without any discount in the buyout Noah may give New York.

For the Knicks, that frees up about $12.9 million in extra cap space next summer, when they want to go big game hunting for free agents. (The Knicks reportedly have Kyrie Irving at the top of their list, although most sources I talk to around the league don’t expect Irving to leave Boston next summer.) It does mean the Knicks will have some of that Noah money on the books through the summer of 2023. The risk for New York is if they strike out in free agency then they still have that Noah money on the books, rather than just taking their medicine and paying the full price, although having him in the locker room and wanting minutes would be a distraction, one the Knicks would like to move past.

As for other teams having interest in Noah, maybe if he can prove he’s healthy some team might consider him for a backup center, or third center on the roster spot. Maybe. But most teams would rather have a young player they can get cheaply and develop in that spot rather than a 33-year-old veteran with an injury history. It’s something to watch, but I doubt the market is very deep. That said, it just takes one.

76ers set to turn promising season into must-see TV

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CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Ben Simmons is set to turn the 76ers into must-see TV.

But he hopes to have another smash hit off the court. NBC has given a script commitment to “Brotherly Love,” loosely based on the life of the Aussie-born NBA rookie of the year.

Deadline described the pitch like this:

“Brotherly Love is inspired by the life of Ben Simmons and centers on a unique sibling relationship within a multi-ethnic family. Together, they pursue their dreams while navigating life in the spotlight in Philadelphia, a passionate city where sports is in your blood, and your blood is always boiling.”

Don’t touch that dial – well, unless the 76ers are on.

“It’s just funny because a lot of people probably pitch their lives and think everything should be a TV show,” Simmons said Friday. “We brought it to life. (My brother) wrote something up, pitched it to a few different people. NBC loved it and went with it. It’s really going to be about our relationship and how things just happen. It’s more of a comedy-sitcom type of show. It will be pretty funny. Hopefully, that goes through and works out.”

Oh, and LeBron James (through SpringHill Entertainment) is listed as an executive producer.

The 76ers were shooting for Ben & Bron.

The Sixers met with James’ representatives just hours before the free-agent signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, the brief flirtation enough to make the organization think they might have a shot at the NBA great.

“I feel like he could have been a great piece to add to get us where we need to be,” All-Star center Joel Embiid said.

So the 76ers will try to win their first NBA title since 1983 without The King.

But with Embiid, Simmons and 2017 No. 1 NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz aboard, the Sixers believe they can top the 52 wins and a playoff series win from a year ago as they chase a championship.

Embiid, speaking at 76ers’ media day, said a successful season would be “an appearance in the NBA finals.”

That’s a pretty lofty goal for a franchise that made no meaningful offseason additions and just this week named 39-year-old Elton Brand, who retired only two years ago, as general manager.

“I just remember dunking on him really bad,” Embiid said. “That’s crazy it was two years ago.”

Coach Brett Brown expected a dominant season out of Embiid (22.9 points, 11 rebounds) and Simmons, whose friendship with Kendall Jenner made TMZ headlines this summer. He spent the offseason working on his jumper.

“I’ve never been on a team where I have to take shots,” Simmons said.

But the player who can make the most impact as a pseudo-newcomer is Fultz. Bordering on bust territory after just one season, Fultz had his rookie year derailed by a mysterious shoulder injury, a broken shot and confidence issues. He played the first four games, missed 68 games because of the injury and was benched in the playoffs against the Celtics.

Fultz struggled with his mechanics when he played, and his shooting form was widely mocked around the NBA.

Even his personal trainer, shooting coach Drew Hanlen, said Fultz suffered from the “yips” and “completely forgot how to shoot.”

The 20-year-old Fultz said Hanlen used a “misterm in words.”

“What happened last year was the injury, let me get that straight,” Fultz said. “It was the injury that happened that didn’t allow me to go through a certain path that I need to shoot the ball. Just like any normal person, when you’re used to doing something the same way each and every day and something happens, of course you’re going to start thinking about it. It’s just normal.”

Fultz took about 150,000 shots this summer and reworked his form to prove he’s ready join Embiid and Simmons on the Big Three.

“This summer was really just me working to get my mechanics back, my confidence back, my swagger back,” Fultz said.

The Sixers need it all – the swagger, the shots, the early success that can propel them toward Eastern Conference contention. The franchise that won just 10 games three seasons ago is now on the cusp of becoming an elite team.

“It’s going to be a great year,” Embiid said.