Hard-nosed Matt Barnes took positive steps in controlling his temper

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Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes left Clippers forward Blake Griffsecond from left tangle with OklahomCity Thunder forward Serge Ibaksecond

Photo by Associated Press

Matt Barnes just completed his 11th season in the NBA, and he put up some of his better numbers. He averaged 9.9 points – his career-best is 10.3 – while pulling down 4.6 rebounds and doling out 2.0 assists. He also shot 43.8 percent from the field, 34.3 percent (97 of 283) from 3-point range.
One of the things about Barnes, he is one tough hombre. He doesn’t shy away from contact, he is not afraid to take a crucial shot with the game in the balance. If he is
having a good game, the energy with which he plays seems to pump up his teammates.

Barnes also took some positive strides when it comes to technical fouls and such. In 2012-13, he had 10 technical fouls, four flagrant and two ejections during the regular season. In this just-concluded 2013-14 campaign under first-year coach Doc Rivers, Barnes had just four technical fouls, three flagrant, two ejections.

This was an issue that both Rivers and Barnes discussed with reporters many times during the season. Rivers said he tried to impress upon Barnes that playing hard and committing needless technical and flagrant fouls are not the same thing. One can play very hard without creating unnecessary hardship for his team, the thinking was.

Barnes also had some very bright moments on defense, making him an important part of the Clippers’ lineup.

That doesn’t mean Barnes should rest on his laurels. After all, there were some games where he contributed very little. Invisibility is the type of thing that every player wants to avoid.

Barnes should be in the fold again next season as he is signed for 2014-15 for $3,396,250, with a club option for 2015-16 for $3,542,500.

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Donald Sterling’s attorney responds to latest discrimination lawsuit

Monday saw yet another discrimination lawsuit filed against Donald Sterling, one that alleges racist and sexist taunts on the part of the Clippers owner.

Represented by Gloria Allred, a woman named Maiko Maya King alleges that after she agreed to work as Sterling’s personal assistant in 2013, “contrary to his agreement to pay her $10,000 a month, Sterling dangled money only if she would have sex with him.”

Bobby Samini, an attorney for Sterling, responded to the allegations Tuesday morning.

“The claim by Ms. King is baseless and ridiculous,” Samini wrote in an email. “She was never employed by Donald Sterling. Her claim was obviously (prompted) by opportunistic motives.”

In 2009, Sterling settled a housing discrimination lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice for $2.725 million.

The 80-year-old is likely on his way out as an NBA franchise owner, though he filed a lawsuit seeking $1 billion in damages against the league on Friday. The NBA still needs to vote approve to approve Steve Ballmer as the Clippers’ new owner after the former Microsoft CEO agreed to buy the team for $2 billion last week.

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Shelly Sterling will prevail in Clippers sale, friend predicts

AR-140519500Clippers owner Shelly Sterling and Steve Ballmer had an instant connection, says Sterling’s close friend, Kathrine Baumann.

Baumann had lunch Sunday at a Malibu deli with Sterling, where the pair talked about the pending $2 billion Clippers sale to the former Microsoft executive.

“Shelly just lit up when she talked about him,” Baumann recalled. “She said, “I absolutely adore him.’”

Asked if she thinks that Donald Sterling’s lawsuit will jeopardize the sale, Baumann said: “My money is always on Shelly.”

Ballmer offered the winning bid last Thursday for the Clippers, ending a fast-tracked process to sell the franchise owned by Sterling and her husband Donald since 1981. The NBA gave tentative approval to the deal, while Shelly Sterling agreed not to sue the NBA. She also indemnified the league against lawsuits from others, including Donald Sterling.

However, on Friday, Donald Sterling sued the NBA, seeking to block a forced sale of the team, and throwing into question the Ballmer deal.

Donald Sterling also successfully fought off a stiff fine from the NBA back in the mid 1980s, when the league slapped him with a $25 million penalty for moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles. The Sterlings paid $6 million in the end.

If Donald Sterling continues his legal battle against the NBA, it’s likely to be a fight of “Sterling versus Sterling,” said a source familiar with the negotiations.

Ballmer has said little since the pending sale was announced. Through a representative, he declined a request for an interview on Monday.

The source said Ballmer offered a “wow factor” when negotiating with Shelly Sterling, ultimately beating out at least two other bidders.

“He put himself in a strong commanding position,” the source said. “He had a plan (for the team).”

The proposed sale comes after the NBA fined Donald Sterling $2.5 million, banned him for life from the league, and initiated a forced sale after a recording surfaced of the 80-year-old making remarks about African-Americans.

Shelly Sterling’s grandchildren were heckled at school after the Donald Sterling audiotape surfaced, Baumann said.

Believing Shelly Sterling will prevail in the sale, Baumann praised her friend’s handling of the deal. Shelly Sterling pushed for a quick resolution because “she didn’t want to tear the city apart, tear the fan base apart, and tear the Clippers apart,” Baumann said.

“She put this together and delivered it in a neat package to the NBA,” Baumann said.

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Blake Griffin has become one of the best in the league, but he’s far from perfect

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Photo by Associated Press

Blake Griffin just completed his fourth season in the NBA. It was his best, and the first three were darn good. That’s not to say the 6-foot-10 power forward doesn’t have room for improvement. All players do.

Griffin averaged a career-best 24.1 points. He also pulled down 9.5 rebounds per game, shot a career-high 71.5 percent from the free-throw line and shot 52.8 percent from the field even though he took more outside shots.

Griffin finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting behind Kevin Durant and LeBron Jones. Clippers coach Doc Rivers thought Griffin should have finished second behind Durant. Griffin was that good this season.

Whereas Griffin is probably known most offensively for his powerful dunks, he spent a good part of the off-season working on his outside shot, which often looked real nice from about 15 to 18 feet. He did struggle with it at times, but not so much that it deterred him using it.

One interesting statistic had Griffin leading the Clippers in fouls. He committed an average of 3.3 during the regular season and a whopping 4.15 during 13 playoff games. When Griffin is in foul trouble, the Clippers do suffer and he was in too much foul trouble during the post-season. You don’t really want Griffin to tone down the ferocious part of his game, so he might always lead his team in fouls. But averaging more than four fouls in the playoffs is not a good thing and Griffin must cut down on that when it’s the right time to cut down.

The other thing in this regard is the very idea that Griffin complains on virtually every foul for which he is whistled. Yes, a lot of NBA players beef when they are called for a foul. But Griffin – and the Clippers as a whole – do it too much. One would think Griffin is never guilty of a foul the way he carries on sometimes. Don’t think for one second officials don’t remember all of that, because they do.

The very idea that the player who finished third in the MVP voting had so many fouls called on him in the post-season says a lot. If you have a right to complain, do it. If you don’t, knock it off.

Griffin is too talented and too important to his team to be that guy who hurts his team because of excessive belly-aching.

All that said, Griffin is just a beast on the court. He took so much pounding from defenders this season, that he was able to come up with the numbers he did tells a lot about just how terrific a player he has become.

Griffin said after his team was eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals that he was going to continue to work on his outside shot over this off-season. If he gets even better in that department and can continue to improve upon his free-throw shooting, it won’t be surprising to see him win the MVP award sometime in the next few years.

Griffin, just 25, is signed through the 2017-18 season. He is slated to make $17,632,688 in 2014-15.

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Chris Paul makes All-Defensive first team for the fourth time

Point guard Chris Paul has been selected to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team for the fourth time during his nine-year career.

Paul, who led the league in steals with a 2.48 average, received 64 first-team votes. Joining him on the first team are Defensive Player of the Year center Joakim Noah (105 first-team votes) of the Chicago Bulls, forward Paul George (65 first-team votes) of the Indiana Pacers,  forward Serge Ibaka (54 first-team votes) of the Oklahoma City Thunder and guard/forward Andre Iguodala (57 first-team votes) of the Golden State Warriors.

Voting consisted of a panel of 123 sports writers and broadcasters.

The second team is made up of forward LeBron James of the Miami Heat, guard Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets, guard Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls, forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs and center Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers.

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NBA calls Donald Sterling’s lawsuit “entirely baseless”

The NBA scoffed at Clippers embattled owner Donald Sterling planning to sue them for $1 billion in damages.

“Mr. Sterling’s lawsuit is predictable, but entirely baseless,” NBA Executive Vice President and General Counsel Rick Buchanan said in a statement to this newspaper. “Among other infirmities, there was no “forced sale” of his team by the NBA – which means his antitrust and conversion claims are completely invalid. Since it was his wife Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn’t even exist.”
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NBA settles dispute over Clippers, cancels meeting to terminate Donald Sterling

The NBA announced Friday that it has resolved a dispute over ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, and withdrawn the pending charge to terminate Sterlings’ ownership.

The league reached the agreement with Donald Sterling’s wife Shelly, and the Sterling Family Trust which owns the franchise. Shelly as the sole trustee in selling the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Thursday for $2 billion, which still needs to be approved by the NBA Board of Governors.

A previously scheduled June 3 meeting to terminate Donald Sterling’s ownership has been cancelled.

Donald Sterling’s attorney Maxwell Blecher, said earlier Friday afternoon that his client intends to sue the NBA for $1 billion in damages. Blecher has not yet responded for further comment since the NBA’s latest announcement.

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Donald Sterling will sue the NBA for $1 billion

Even as his franchise steps toward a new regime, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling plans to sue the NBA for $1 billion in damages.

Attorney Maxwell Blecher confirmed that his client intends to file suit against the league, as first reported by NBC News. Sterling’s wife, Shelly, agreed Thursday to sell the franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion after reportedly having her husband declared mentally incapacitated. She in turn claimed full control of the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers.

The league has not yet approved the sale of the Clippers, and is proceeding with a June 3 hearing to oust Donald Sterling. Commissioner Adam Silver has maintained that the preferred outcome is a voluntary sale.

Sterling is seeking damages for the lifetime ban the NBA handed him last month and his termination charges.

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Chris Paul has nothing but upside on his side, so next season should be interesting

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Photo by the Denver Post

Point guard Chris Paul has now been in the NBA for nine seasons. But he’s never made it past the second round of the playoffs, and that is something he said during this recently concluded post-season that he really wants.

With that in mind, let’s examine the 2013-14 campaign he put together. Paul averaged 19.1 points, a league-high 10.7 assists and a league-high 2.48 steals. Not a darn thing wrong with any of those numbers, even though none represents a personal best. With scoring machines like Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford around, it would have been difficult for Paul to surpass his highest scoring season of 22.8 set in 2008-09 with the New Orleans Hornets.

If anything, the one thing Paul showed that may have been somewhat surprising is that – gasp – he’s human. In 62 regular-season games – he missed 20 games because of injury – he had the league’s best assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.57.

During the first four games of the Western Conference semifinals against Oklahoma City, Paul had committed just six turnovers while doling out 46 assists. But in Game 5 at Oklahoma City, he had a very uncharacteristic five turnovers – two down the stretch that played a big role in his team losing the game after it led by 13 points with just over four minutes to play and by seven with 49.2 seconds left.

Paul and the Clippers were not able to rebound from that, and lost the series in Game 6 at Staples Center.

Since Paul doesn’t really have to improve upon any particular part of his game, all he really has to do moving forward to next season is forget about what he called the toughest moment of his basketball life in the Game 5 post-game news conference.

If Paul can do that – and the feeling here is he will – he will be able to use that experience as a springboard toward the success he and every other NBA player wants to reach – the NBA Finals.

Paul is under contract with the Clippers through the 2017-18 season, so he’s not going anywhere. He will make $20,068,563 in 2014-15.

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