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Barnes to Phoenix

Matt Barnes told me tonight he is signing with the Suns, a one-year deal for the league minimum ($926,678) .
This ends the deteriorated relationship between Barnes and the Warriors. Just two seasons ago, he was the man, the key role player in their success. He played defense, rebounded, committed the hard fouls, knocked down shots, played with energy — everything the Warriors needed. He was nearly as important to the Warriors’ postseason success in 2007 as Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson.
He certainly didn’t play the same last season, and for good reason (the death of his mother, disappointment from not getting a contract, Nellie constantly on his case). Still, I would’ve liked to see him stay. Not only for my benefit (Barnes is one of the most down-to-earth athletes I’ve ever met). But I think he could’ve helped the Warriors. He knows the system. He fits the style. He’s experienced. He would’ve been cheap, much cheaper than the $3-plus million he got last year. He also would’ve been hungry, coming off a disappointing year.
The reality is, though, I don’t think Nellie wants him around. Nellie had a thing against Barnes. His turnovers burned Nellie more. For some reason, his bad shots really infuriated Nellie. Which is wierd, considering how many bad shots the Warriors take. Barnes knew it.
Based on every conversation we’ve had, Barnes would stay with the Warriors if they made him an offer. He loved it here. He’s a Bay Area guy. The system fits his game. He’s tight with his teammates. And it’s not like he’s getting more money elsewhere. The Warriors can afford to pay him the minimum. Which leads me to believe they didn’t make him an offer.

42

Whew! Now Let’s Play Catch-Up

OK, a lot has happened super fast. There was quite a bit of info, thoughts I didn’t get into my story for tomorrow’s paper. Here are some of the major points of the article, some of my thoughts, and some answers to your questions. Ready? Breathe. Read.

* I was told consistently by a source that Maggette got five years, $50 million. At the last-minute, I heard it was five years, $40 million. But my source reiterated that it was $50 million. That $10 million is a huge difference. That deal looks a whole lot better if it is for $40 million.

* Heard late in the evening that the Warriors made an offer to Ronny Turiaf! Don’t know all the details yet, but I was told it averaged about $4M a year. Ronny is restricted, so if the Warriors sign him to an offer sheet, the Lakers can match. I’m not sure if I like this or not yet. Turiaf is one of those dudes who impresses you in spots, but when you step back and look at what he brings overall, he’s not to impressive. He does some things well, not so much others. Is he worth $4M? Over three years, sure, why not. The Warriors need a hustler, a body not afraid to bang.

* I was shunned by Baron’s people. He nor his agent responded to the one question I had: With Brand going to Philly, is there ANY chance AT ALL that Baron goes back to the negotiating table with the Warriors? I got no love. A contact did tell me that the Clippers spent Tuesday evening talking to Baron, convincing him to stay, even working out the details of the contract (as well as preparing a fat offer sheet for Atlanta’s Josh Smith). They were pretty sure he was staying, but he was rumored to be livid over Brand’s Boozer impersonation.

* Pietrus got love from Orlando because Otis Smith, the Magic’s GM, likes Pietrus. They had some kind of bond when Smith was with the Warriors and Pietrus was a youngster. That helped MP2 get what he got. Orlando needed a replacement for Maurice Evans, who is now a free agent. There is even talk that Pietrus could start.

* Didn’t I say top-tier ballers don’t want to play for the Warriors? Brand turned down some $10 million more from the Warriors to go to … Philly! Dang. That was a straight slap in the face to the Warriors. Did the Warriors really think they were going to get a player better than Baron?

* Speaking of Brand, he just went from one of the league’s character examples to supplanting Carlos Boozer as the face of reneging. Check this out – Brand, according to insider scuttle, turned down virtually the same amount from the Clippers. Los Angeles got up to $80 million and was willing to renounce more players if necessary to give Brand more. Still, he chose Philly.

* So the salary cap is $58.7 million. The luxury tax will be $71.1 million. Based on my estimation, and figuring this out cost me hours of my life I’ll never get back, the Warriors are at about $50 million including the cap holds. Here is the breakdown:
2008-09
Al Harrington – $9.23
Corey Maggette – $8.50
Stephen Jax – $7.14
Andris Biedrins – $7.90 (cap hold)
Adonal Foyle – $6.50 (buyout price)
Brandan Wright – $2.50
Kosta Perovic – $1.70
Ant Randolph – $1.70 (rookie scale max)
Monta Ellis – $1.54 (cap hold)
Marco Belinelli – $1.45 (rookie scale max)
Kelenna Azubuike-$0.89 (cap hold)
Richard Hendrix – $0.44 (league minimum)
C.J. Watson – $0.71 (minimum salary, non-guaranteed)
Total – $50.20

That leaves the Warriors with some $8 million to spend before hitting the cap. If Andris signs a deal starting at a salary equal to his cap hold, the the Warriors can sign a free agent or two before signing Ellis and Andris. They’ll have close to $10 million if they wait to sign Randolph until they hit the cap, which they can do under CBA rules. They would also have more if they traded Harrington and got less money back.

*Here’s a concern I have: what happens when Monta and Andris want more than Maggette? Monta certainly has a claim. Say the Warriors start Monta at $9 a year (which would be $67.5M contract over six years). And say they start Biedrins at $8. That would make Stephen Jackson the fifth-highest paid player on the team.
Now, he’s up for an extension. I seriously doubt if he gets one. How is he going to react to being so far down on the salary pole but being a leader on this team while getting no extension love? Remember, Jackson has watched Richardson get shipped out unexpectedly as if he wasn’t the heart and soul of the team. He watched Pietrus and his boy Barnes get hardballed into a one-year deal. He watched his “brother” Baron Davis get his extension requests rejected in consecutive offseasons and then “lowballed” (in his eyes). He’s watching his other close friend, Al Harrington, once highly coveted by the Warriors, become a role player.
You have to wonder if Jackson is going to take one for the team or try to get his paper.

* With the way restricted free agents are about to get squeezed (only the clippers have money left), don’t be surprised if several of them ask for a sign-and-trade or choose to play for the one-year qualifying offer (and become restricted free agents next season). Including Andris. The free agent market is kind of skimpy this offseason – thanks to all the money going to the few big names out there. Some of the second-tier stars will shine a lot brighter in 2009.

* I still say go after Rasheed Wallace or Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom. Use Harrington, future draft picks, etc. – maybe even Stephen Jackson – to get a proven All-Star. They all are one-and-done, which could give the Warriors cap space next year if they don’t work out.

66

Well, well, well

Where to begin? Of all the things I thought might happen to the Warriors this summer — and that’s a mighty lengthy list — Baron Davis passing on $17.8 million is not one of them. Of course, that’s because Baron was telling everyone who would listen it wouldn’t happen.

First off, let’s cover some turf that was discussed in the story you’ll never read — the one I sent into the office around 6 p.m. or so last night, or just in time for me to call back within the hour and say, “Tear that sucker up.”

Obviously, this was before BD dropped his bombshell, so I’m not sure this stuff still has relevance in the new Warriors world, but . . .

Don Nelson had this to say at Monday’s press conference for rookie picks Anthony Randolph and Richard Hendrix: “Matt Barnes and Cro, those guys will not be back, so there’s going to be some minutes there (at the forward spots). The team is going to take on a different shape, a different look. So there will be more opportunities for our youth.”

Chris Mullin didn’t necessarily agree, but did say it wasn’t realistic to think the Warriors could bring back both Barnes and Mickael Pietrus. And he said Patrick O’Bryant is as good as gone.

For his part, Barnes said, via text message: “(Nelson) is the boss. I would love to be a Warrior. I owe so much to Nellie and to the organization. But with the tough season I had last year, it doesn’t look like I’m wanted. . . . This is a cold game and a tough business.”

As for the point guard . . .

Here’s a Nelson quote that I couldn’t get into the paper due to language restrictions: “Opting out of a $17 million contract, that’s ballsy. Nobody can say Baron doesn’t have balls.”

Although I’m sure that a certain radio host who’s not a media member will disagree with me, the Warriors most definitely have been lowballing Baron. Consider this: When Chauncey Billups was 15 months older than BD is now, he got four guaranteed years worth approximately $11.5 million per season. When Steve Nash was 18 months older than BD is now, he got five guaranteed years worth $13 million per. BD was being asked to take significantly less security than that.

Thing is, nobody should be shocked by this turn of events. Lowballing has been the Warriors’ default negotiating position for a few years now; it’s how they chiseled Barnes down to a lone season at $3 million after his breakout year in 2006-07, and how they forced Pietrus to eat the one-year qualifying offer last season. It’s why the books look better and has worked for the team.

In this instance, however, it appears to have backfired. The Warriors have had plenty of opportunities to discuss an extension, but by sticking with their usual modus operandi, when Elton Brand opted out with the caveat that he’s returning to the Clippers, the opportunity was there for Davis to go home. And he’s jumping at it. According to multiple sources and several different reports, he will try to head to L.A. as a free agent as soon as possible, with Brand taking a less-than-max deal to make it happen.

“We’re grown-ups, and we understood that it was a possibility,” Nelson said. “We didn’t think it would happen, but it did and we’ll deal with it.”

According to the Washington Post, the Warriors’ first thought in dealing with it was to make a run at Gilbert Arenas, which would be great except — as always when it comes to Agent Zero and this franchise — the salary-cap cards are stacked against the W’s. The Wizards can and are willing, according to the Post, to pay Arenas for one more year than the Warriors can (six versus five), and can give 10.5 percent yearly raises instead of the 8 percent that Golden State can give. The total amounts will depend on the salary cap numbers, since the maximum allowable starting salary is a percentage of the cap.

If Arenas is not an option, where do they go next? Atlanta forward Josh Smith, an RFA, would fill the Warriors’ hole at power forward, but the contract would have to be large enough to make the Hawks give up on matching the deal. And that presumes Monta Ellis is ready to run the team on his own.

– Geoff

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Report Card: Swingmen

The Warriors have a wealth of small forward/shooting guards. Last year, this position was one of the team’s great strengths. It was where the Warriors versatility lied. It was the position their best defenders played. This year, they weren’t so good. The Warriors, with the way they play, need swingmen who produce consistently. One of the reasons for the lineup shuffling was the inconsistent production of the swingmen.

Stephen Jackson: He had a career year. He averaged 20 points for the first time in his career. He averaged four assists for just the second time in his career (both coming with the Warriors). He shot his best percentage from 3-point range ever. He averaged 39 minutes, five more than last season. His previous career high was 36.8. So Jackson certainly had a big year. He wasn’t as good defensively this season as he was last season. He wasn’t the stopper he proved to be a year ago, and he didn’t make it to the defensive end way too many times. That is mostly due to the amount of minutes he played.
Grade: A

Mickael Pietrus: He was the distraction this year – not Baron’s health, not Jackson’s temper, not Monta or Biedrins’ contract. But Pietrus’ contract issues and trade demands, then late-season injury woes, was the biggest locker room issue. That’s a sign of a good locker room.
His play picked up late in the season, negating a horrible first half of the season. He evidently relaxed when the trade deadline passed. What he gained with stellar bench play, he lost with an elongated groin injury.
Grade: D

Matt Barnes: He just didn’t bring it this year. He has reasons. His mother dying. The disappointment of not getting the deal he wanted plus the pressure of trying to do even more to get a bigger contract. Nellie riding him. Barnes certainly had distractions this season and they obviously took away from his play. Not only did he shoot drop three points off his scoring average from last season, and dropped from 36.6 percent from 3 a year ago to 29.3. But he didn’t have the zeal on defense, the all-out hustle, the blue-collar, do it all resolve he showed last season, especially during the playoffs.
Grade: D

Kelenna Azubuike: He improved this season. He played more, raised his scoring and rebounding averages. Came up with some big plays. Solidified himself as an NBA regular. He did have some growing pains. He stepped out of his role too much, especially down the stretch, and he wasn’t as consistent from behind the arc. His defense was poor sometimes, but that could be expected from a second-year player. He’s cheap, so his production looks a whole lot better and his mistakes are a way easier to swallow.
Grade: B-