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Matt Barnes on what held Chris Paul, Blake Griffin Clippers back: ‘Egos’

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There was a stretch of time, from 2012 through 2016 (maybe 2017) when the Los Angeles Clippers looked like contenders. In Doc Rivers first four seasons coaching Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, plus J.J. Redick and the rest of a solid core, they had a top-four point differential in the league three times (and were sixth the other year). These were outstanding teams that showed so much potential.

Then never got past the second round.

Matt Barnes was on some of those Clippers teams, then later went on to the Warriors where he won a ring. Barnes was on the “Lunchtime with Roggin and Rodney” show on AM 570 LA Sports (a show featuring Los Angeles sports broadcasting legend Fred Roggin and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete) and was honest about the downfall of that team.

“We really had one of the most talented teams that never won a championship in L.A. and I think it was our own fault. We were in our own way. Just too many egos, young acting. We thought we were going to be the Warriors right up until they won the championship. We knocked them out of the playoffs the year before they came back and won, so we had a very talented team. We just couldn’t get on the same page. It was crazy. We were all cool off the court and I was like ‘how are we cool off the court and can’t get it together on the court?’ That was our… our mental toughness was what kept us from winning championships for the Clippers.”

Why couldn’t they get it together?

“Egos. Egos. And now looking back on it from my perspective, because I was fortunate enough to go to the Warriors with a whole handful of superstars and there was no egos. Everyone left their ego… the only thing that mattered in Golden State was to win and winning the championship. If we had that mentality with the Clippers we would have won a championship.”

Nobody wins a ring in the NBA without talent, that is first and foremost. A team has to be one of the most talented in the league to have a shot. But it’s more than that — it’s about sacrifice. It’s about putting aside what is best for you to do what is best for the team. Some guys do that effortlessly — Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, others — and some guys have trouble learning that lesson.

Still others never figure it out. Those Clippers never did, and they missed their window.

All-Star Weekend betting odds: All-Star Game MVP, Dunk Contest, more

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It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Luka Doncic is the favorite to win the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night.

Nor should it be a shock that Stephen Curry is the odds-on favorite to win the Three-Point Contest on All-Star Saturday night. Or that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant are at the front of the line to win the All-Star MVP on Sunday.

But are there some value bets in there that could pay off? Maybe. Let’s look at the odds for the weekend events, starting with All-Star Game MVP on Sunday, then moving into Friday night’s rising stars (you should have money on this if you’re going to sit through the dunk fest from young players). These odds are courtesy BetOnline.ag.

2019 NBA All-Star Game MVP

Giannis Antetokounmpo 6/1
Kevin Durant 6/1
LeBron James 13/2
Stephen Curry 7/1
Kemba Walker 15/2
Joel Embiid 17/2
Paul George 17/2
Kyrie Irving 9/1
Anthony Davis 10/1
James Harden 10/1
Russell Westbrook 12/1
Kawhi Leonard 14/1
Dwyane Wade 20/1
Blake Griffin 33/1
Ben Simmons 33/1
Bradley Beal 40/1
Damian Lillard 40/1
Klay Thompson 40/1
Karl-Anthony Towns 40/1
LaMarcus Aldridge 50/1
Dirk Nowitzki 50/1
Kyle Lowry 66/1
Nikola Jokic 66/1
Khris Middleton 80/1
D'Angelo Russell 100/1
Nikola Vucevic 100/1

How is Jokic longer odds to win MVP than Nowitzki? Has anyone watched those two play this season? The challenge here is that anyone good enough to be in this game is capable of putting up MVP stats for a night, the question is which guy wakes up in the morning and says “I want to win MVP tonight” and goes out and takes over. Hometown hero Kemba Walker at 15/2 could be that guy.

2019 NBA All-Star Rising Stars MVP

Luka Doncic (DAL) 4/1
Ben Simmons (PHI) 4/1
Donovan Mitchell (UTA) 8/1
Jayson Tatum (BOS) 9/1
Deandre Ayton (PHX) 10/1
Kyle Kuzma (LAK) 10/1
Trae Young (ATL) 10/1
OG Anunoby (TOR) 12/1
Bogdan Bogdanovic (SAC) 12/1
De'Aaron Fox (SAC) 12/1
Lauri Markkanen 12/1
Marvin Bagley III (SAC) 20/1
John Collins (ATL) 20/1
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC) 20/1
Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM) 20/1
Kevin Knox (NYK) 20/1

This could go a lot of directions, but Kuzma at 10/1 is tempting — the guy is an elite scorer, he could put up massive numbers. Tatum and Mitchell also could decide to take over and win it. As a side note, Team USA is -3 in this game over Team World. I have no idea why. Home team advantage because the game is in the United States?

2019 NBA All-Star 3-Point Contest Winner

Stephen Curry (GSW) 2/1
Devin Booker (PHX) 9/2
Seth Curry (POR) 5/1
Buddy Hield (SAC) 6/1
Joe Harris (BKN) 13/2
Damien Lillard (POR) 8/1
Danny Green (TOR) 10/1
Khris Middleton (MIL) 10/1
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 12/1
Kemba Walker (CHA) 12/1

Brooklyn’s Harris might be the second best pure shooter of the group (Stephen Curry is maybe the best all time, so he’s on top), and at 13/2 there’s some value play there.

2019 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest Winner

Dennis Smith Jr. (NYK) 3/2
John Collins (ATL) 5/2
Miles Bridges (CHA) 5/2
Hamidou Diallo (OKC) 3/1

Miles Bridges is the hometown guy, but outside that I’ve got nothing for you.

2019 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge Winner

De’Aaron Fox (SAC) 3/1
Luka Doncic (DAL) 4/1
Trae Young (ATL) 4/1
Mike Conley (MEM) 11/2
Nikola Jokic (DEN) 6/1
Jayson Tatum (BOS) 13/2
Kyle Kuzma (LAK) 7/1
Nikola Vucevic (ORL) 8/1

It takes a combination of speed and three-point accuracy on pull-ups to win this game. Fox makes sense as a favorite, but Conley and Tatum maybe could be surprise threats if their shots fall.

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma: ‘I’d rather be talked about bad in L.A. than play in Orlando and not get talked about’

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Kyle Kuzma gained acclaim last season because he played well and played for the Lakers, the NBA’s most prominent franchise. Then, LeBron James went to Los Angeles and brought even more attention to the Lakers.

SiriusXM NBA Radio:

Kuzma:

I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want people to talk about me, good or bad. Because if they’re not, you’re not doing something right. I’d rather be talked about bad in L.A. than play in Orlando and not get talked about.”

It’s great Kuzma has this mentality while playing in Los Angeles. The glitz of a large market can sidetrack some players. He has acclimated well. Few players would admit it so bluntly, but if this is the lifestyle Kuzma wants, good for him.

However, the Lakers will likely try to trade for Anthony Davis this offseason. That could mean sending Kuzma to small-market New Orleans. Trying to win a title during LeBron’s prime, the Lakers could also deal the young Kuzma for a different older, better player.

At least it probably won’t be to Orlando. The Magic don’t have a star worth trading Kuzma for.

Pelicans name Danny Ferry interim GM, still considering long-term options

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Much like when a team makes a young coach hire a proven veteran head coach as an assistant — a sign they want someone in place if things go sideways — so eyebrows around the NBA were raised a few years ago when the Pelicans hired former Hawks GM Danny Ferry to be a consultant to the New Orleans front office. It was like they were lining up a potential replacement.

Friday morning, the Pelicans fired Dell Demps as GM.

Now they have named Ferry as the interim GM the team announced.

Ferry will be in the mix long-term, but owner Gayle Benson wants a new structure in place in New Orleans. Demps reported to Micky Loomis, the NFL’s Saints executive, and in comments on the firing of Demps she said she wants to set up a more independent structure for the Pelicans.

“We will immediately begin the process of restructuring our basketball operations department,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in her statement. “This will include a comprehensive, but confidential, search aided by outside consultants to identify a new leader of our basketball operations, directly reporting to me…

“As difficult as these decisions are, my responsibility is to provide the leadership and resources necessary to deliver a winning team to our fans and community. I take that responsibility seriously and would like to assure our fans that I am prepared to provide any, and all, resources required to compete for championships. My expectations, and the expectations of our fans, are that this team will compete at a high level for the remainder of the season. While we still have many more critical decisions to make when this season comes to an end, I am focused on making sure we are properly positioned to succeed and that we are headed in the right direction.”

Ferry is in the big chair now and will be in the running for the main job. He reshaped the Hawks roster into a 60-win team without bottoming out and tanking, although the team could not sustain that level of play. He was let go in a messy situation where he relayed a racist scouting report comment about Luol Deng (he “had a little African in him”). Ferry may not have authored the remark but he didn’t edit it either and that understandably landed him in hot water. Add to that he was caught in the infighting of the Hawks’ ownership groups at the time (the team has since been sold) and Ferry was destined to lose his job.

Ferry is not the only big name being considered for the permanent gig, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Griffin is the biggest name on the board, and if Benson is looking for someone who wants the control and knows how to organize a basketball operations side top to bottom he would be a great choice. (Part of the reason he did not get the Knicks job was Griffin wanted that control and couldn’t get it.)

Mike Zarren has been one of the assistant GMs most mentioned as getting a promotion for some time. The interesting thing there is Zarren works for the Celtics and would suddenly be the guy in charge of where Anthony Davis gets traded. And the Celtics want Davis. That doesn’t make it a done deal — Zarren is smart and would ask for the world — but NBA front office work is a relationship business and if someone has a preexisting relationship with another GM deals are more likely to come together.

Lakers president Magic Johnson: I get fined every time I talk about other players, but nobody else does

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Magic Johnson got the Lakers fined for tweets he sent while holding a ceremonial executive title. Once he started running the front office, his blinking at Paul George on national TV contributed to the Lakers getting fined again for tampering. Johnson’s praise of Giannis Antetokounmpo drew yet another tampering fine.

So, though he escaped punishment for his recent comments on 76ers guard Ben Simmons, Johnson refused to answer a question about Hornets guard Kemba Walker.

Carolina Blitz:

Johnson:

You know I can’t answer any questions about no players, because every time I do it, I get fined. But anybody else do it, they don’t get fined. So I’m going to stay away from that one.

I don’t blame Johnson for feeling that way.

Other teams’ owners, coaches and executives have repeatedly publicly discussed rival players without facing announced punishment.

To be fair, the NBA doesn’t reveal every fine. Bucks owner Marc Lasry reportedly just got fined for tampering, but the league never announced it. But, at minimum, there’s an inconsistency with how the NBA exposes Johnson’s transgressions.

Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last year there’s a spotlight on the Lakers due to prior tampering. That strikes me as unfair. The Lakers already paid for their prior violations and should now be held to the same standard as everyone else.

And for what it’s worth, I wish that standard allowed an all-time great point guard like Johnson to publicly share his thoughts on Kemba Walker.