VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 27
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Barnes breaks off extension talks with Warriors — Just a week ago, the Detroit Pistons and center Andre Drummond decided to table contract extension talks until the summer. Another pick from Drummond’s 2012 Draft class, Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, is apparently doing likewise as well. USA Today‘s Sam Amick reports on why Barnes is holding off on an extension for now and why his move isn’t a surprise given the upcoming salary cap jump in the NBA:
Fourth-year forward Harrison Barnes broke off extension talks with the Golden State Warriors on Monday night nearly a week before the league-issued deadline of Nov. 2, and no one should be surprised that a deal won’t get done here right now.
Crazy as it might sound, Barnes — who wanted to focus on the start of the regular season and who will be a restricted free agent next summer — is well within his right to want an annual salary in the $20 million range. The league’s salary cap is soaring like a Six Flags roller coaster in the coming years, meaning players with huge upside like him will come at a far greater cost than before. Barnes and his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management, have this security blanket covered in dollar signs on their side here.
The Warriors, meanwhile, have a one-of-a-kind locker room where there is a positive culture and across-the-board cohesion to protect. It was just four months ago, remember, that they gave fellow fourth-year player/starter Draymond Green a five-year, $82 million deal to return. It was a generous deal, to be sure, but one can only imagine how Green — the 35th pick in the 2012 draft who was deemed the “heartbeat” of this team last season by head coach Steve Kerr — might have felt if Barnes (who was the seventh pick in the same draft) wound up making more than him to stick around.
Sure enough, the annual salary that the Warriors are known to have offered Barnes in a four-year extension and that was turned down — approximately $16.4 million — would put him right alongside Green in that regard. That wasn’t a coincidence.
“The deal has to work for Harrison and the organization,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “And I always — maybe it’s my background (as a player agent) — but I always respect the position that an athlete takes in these situations. And now, representing the organization, we’re going to make the decision the best decision for us.
“I would not say (they’re) disappointed, would not say frustrated. Like I said, (Barnes) has conducted himself tremendously well — as has his representative — and I think we ended the discussions in a very healthy place, if that’s possible. And I say that will all sincerity.”
No. 2: New era begins for Kobe, Lakers — All that offseason discussion about how Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, entering his 20th season, will mesh with the team’s youthful new faces? It starts to get ironed out tonight as the Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN). While others within the franchise — most notably Metta World Peace and GM Mitch Kupchak — think the team can maybe contend for the playoffs, Bryant is reserving judgment for now. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times has more on Kobe, who is expected to suit up and play in tonight’s season-opener:
Kobe Bryant knows what everyone is thinking.
“I’m just an old, average player,” he said, his voice coated in sarcasm as he spoke to reporters Tuesday.
Bryant’s back, ready or not. This will be the 20th NBA season for a 37-year-old with a reduced role, if you believe him.
On one hand, he says, this game is for the kids now, cognizant that 19-year-old D’Angelo Russell and 23-year-old Jordan Clarkson are the Lakers’ backcourt of the future. On the other hand, he gets rankled by meaningless player rankings, ESPN drawing a frown and more sarcasm from Bryant after calling him the NBA’s 93rd-best player this season.
Which Bryant will show up Wednesday in the season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves? Tough to tell.
He already dealt with an injury in exhibition play, sitting out almost two weeks because of a bruised lower leg. His minutes will drop from 34.5 a game last season to about 30 (the actual number hasn’t been disclosed), and his ball-handling opportunities will also slide downward.
He deferred when asked whether this was a playoff team, probably a wise move coming off a 21-61 season that was the worst in the franchise’s 67 years. The Lakers have never missed the playoffs three consecutive years, but it could easily happen in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference.
“It all depends on the learning curve,” Bryant said. “Once you get out there and you start playing and you have to travel and you get into the road, just kind of work through the nuances of the schedule, that’s when you really learn. So it’s just a matter of how quickly you figure those things out.”
VIDEO: Kobe Bryant looks ahead to the opener and the season at large
No. 3: Hawks get wake-up call in opener — The 2014-15 campaign was a dream for the Atlanta Hawks as they amassed the best record in the Eastern Conference, all while setting a team record for wins (60) and rolling to their first conference finals since the franchise’s St. Louis days. More success is expected in 2015-16 and may very well be in the cards. However, after last night’s 106-94 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Philips Arena, there may be cause for concern. Our Sekou Smith was on hand and has more:
As openers go, this 106-94 pasting at the hands of the Detroit Pistons was a worst-case scenario for the Hawks. The Pistons exposed the same weaknesses that ended the Hawks’ magical run in a sweep against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals.
When a team pounds them physically, particularly on the glass, keeps them from moving the ball with ease and puts the pressure on someone other than Jeff Teague or Dennis Schroder to create some offensive flow, that juggernaut that ran off 19 straight last season and won 33 of 35 games during one mercurial stretch suddenly looks quiet vulnerable.
Sure, it’s just one game.
The first of 82.
And no lasting impressions can be cemented from the first four quarters of a season.
But first impressions have to count for something, especially when you return four All-Stars and the bulk of your core and the goal is to make “amazing” happen again.
The frustration for the Hawks was evident from the start, when they had trouble containing Pistons behemoth Andre Drummond inside and Reggie Jackson,Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the perimeter.
Detroit’s starters outscored the Hawks’ starters 88-59, with Caldwell-Pope leading all five of them in double figures with a game-high 21. Drummond owned the paint, finishing with 18 points and 19 rebounds (eight offensive), three assists and two blocks. The Hawks had seven offensive rebounds, between the 11 players who saw action.
“They’ve got great bigs,” Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson said. “But there are very few guys in the league that can match Andre’s size … he is definitely going man the paint for us this year.”
The Hawks added Tiago Splitter over the summer to combat this very issue, but he was little help (four points and four rebounds) on a night that saw All-Stars Al Horford and Paul Millsap play relatively well, but not nearly well enough to overcome the space-eating Drummond.
“It’s one of those things, defensively our bigs are out there showing and that allows him free range to go and get rebounds and things like that,” Horford said of the dilemma the Hawks face against bigs like Drummond. “It’s tough when you’re going against a guy like that. I thought we did a good job containing him one-on-one, but he’s going to get his. We need to be better as far as limiting guys like that.”
After all, it’s just one game.
There are 81 more.
Still, getting smacked in the mouth on opening night will have its benefits, Horford said.
If the Hawks needed any reminding that last season’s spectacular ride is officially over, the message was delivered loud and clear by the Pistons.
“It’s definitely a new season,” he said. “We’re not sneaking under anybody’s radar. But again, it’s the first game. We lost our first game last year, too. It’s just important for us to regroup and we’re going to learn from the film. We’ll be better.”
VIDEO: Al Horford discusses the Hawks’ season-opening loss
No. 4: Williams, Matthews embrace reunion and fresh start in Dallas — Back in the 2010-11 season, Deron Williams was perhaps the best point guard in the NBA as a star with the Utah Jazz. On that same team was an undrafted rookie, Wesley Matthews, an unknown who made a lasting mark in the NBA and was on his way to a solid career. Fast forward five years and both men are in different places — Williams no longer a top-flight point guard and Matthews is recovering from a torn Achilles suffered late last season. They have reunited on the Mavs as the new starting backcourt and see this season as a chance to prove a lot in their own ways. Dwane Price of the Star-Telegram has more:
At point guard, Williams replaces Rajon Rondo, who got sideways with coach Rick Carlisle last season before he and the Mavericks decided to mutually part ways. Rondo signed a free-agent contract with the Sacramento Kings over the summer.
Signed to a two-year, $11 million free-agent contract by the Mavericks, Williams plays a position which hasn’t had substantial success since Jason Kidd left for the New York Knicks in 2012. However, Williams is coming off an injury-riddled season with the Brooklyn Nets, which turned out to be one of the worst of his 10-year career.
The Mavericks are not concerned about Williams’ health issues, despite the fact that he played in only one of the team’s seven preseason games because of a strained right calf.
“I watched a lot of film from his playoffs last year and later in the season and it really appeared to me that his health was good,” said Carlisle, whose team opens the regular season at Phoenix at 9 p.m. Wednesday. “We did a breakdown film on him, and I was astounded with the number of points that he scored late in the year that were drives to the basket — he was getting to the rim.
“The other thing I really like about him for our situation is that I just like the guys that we can surround him with to make his job easier. I really think he can make the jobs of the guys around him easier as well.”
A native of The Colony, Williams said in talking with owner Mark Cuban and Carlisle, the plan is for him to get a fresh start in a much friendlier environment than the one he played in during his time in Brooklyn.
“Let what happened in Brooklyn be in the past and move forward,” Williams said. “It’s over and done with. I’m a Maverick and I’m excited to play with the group we have and for coach Carlisle.
“Just hitting that reset button, clearing my head and getting away from the situation that wasn’t going well for me or the team in Brooklyn. It’s a total change coming here.”
Matthews, 29, underwent left Achilles surgery on March 11 while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. The recovery lasted so long that the only preseason game Matthews played in was the same one Williams played in — last Friday in Lincoln, Neb., against the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m not confident that I’m going to be that player,” said Matthews, who signed a four-year, $70 million contract with the Mavericks. “I’m confident that I’m going to be better than that player. I’m looking forward to this challenge.”
“It’s been [five] years since I played with him, so it’s not exactly too familiar,” Williams said. “But it’s good to definitely get out there with him, and it’s good to see him back on the court as well.”
Despite playing for different teams the past five seasons, Matthews and Williams remained friends.
“You see people that played together and after they were no longer teammates that might have been the last time they communicated,” Matthews said. “But D-Will and I have remained friends. So it’ll just make our bond even closer and tighter so we can get that much more out of each other.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle won’t give a timetable on when Chandler Parsons will return to the lineup … It’s the 70th season in the NBA, so here are 70 things to look forward to in 2015-16 … Hall of Famer John Stockton has joined the Montana State women’s basketball coaching staff as an assistant … Former All-Star Danny Granger is hoping to latch on with an NBA team after completing a round of rehab work on his foot … Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker could suit up early next month … Minnesota Timberwolves to commemorate Flip Saunders‘ passing with a patch on their uniforms all season long …
ICYMI(s) of the Night: Did Stephen Curry even take the summer off? …
VIDEO: Stephen Curry lights up Pelicans in first quarter of season opener