When then-Lakers small forward Matt Barnes struggled so mightily against Denver in the first round of the playoffs last season, his on-court play seemed to lessen the chances of him returning to Los Angeles.
When Barnes was arrested by Manhattan Beach police in late July because of an outstanding traffic warrant, it appeared the off-court distraction would diminish those odds even more. Yet Barnes may indeed be returning to Los Angeles -- with the Clippers.
Sources say the 32-year-old Barnes has told the Clippers he will sign with them, and a deal is expected to be finalized as soon as Friday. Barnes turned down a more lucrative deal with Cleveland two summers ago to sign with the Lakers at the behest of Kobe Bryant, and it appears a similar superstar dynamic could be in play with the Clippers and Chris Paul.
Paul, who carries more Clippers clout than ever these days because of his looming free agency in 2013, has been included in the team's decision-making process throughout the summer and would love to make Barnes the latest addition. He appears on the verge of getting his wish. The Clippers re-signed a Paul favorite in point guard Chauncey Billups earlier this summer, secured a five-year extension with forward Blake Griffin and also added the likes of scorer Jamal Crawford, veteran small forward Grant Hill and reliable big man Ronny Turiaf.
It's been a banner summer for the new vice president of basketball operations, Gary Sacks, a longtime Clippers executive who teamed up with team president Andy Roeser and coach Vinny Del Negro on the personnel front when general manager Neil Olshey left for Portland. Barnes -- who averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 22.9 minutes in 63 games last season and has been impressing during workouts at the Clippers facility in recent weeks -- would be a low-risk, high-reward add that would replace the toughness and defensive mentality lost with the exit of free-agent forward Kenyon Martin. Sources say the Lakers have still been considering signing Barnes as well, along with Brooklyn and Miami.
A look at other free agents still floating on the market ...
Meanwhile, the player who Barnes would essentially be replacing, Martin, remains unemployed despite his reputation as a tenacious defender and enforcer. He's the sort of veteran that could come in handy for any contender, but here's the crucial rub: It appears that most, if not all, of the interested teams want him to sign a veteran's minimum deal.
The Lakers and Celtics have shown interest previously, but the question now is whether the 34-year-old Martin will hold out until midseason or perhaps even retire if he doesn't get a deal and a situation to his liking. His leading competitor in this corner of the free-agent market is journeyman forward Louis Amundson, the 29-year-old who came off the bench for Indiana last season.
Fisher was a good fit for Oklahoma City last season when he played the role of the sage point guard so well behind Russell Westbrook. The timing was right, with the Thunder needing someone besides Kendrick Perkins to tell a few championship tales while being the consummate pro and a capable backup.
One source close to the situation says the chances he'll be back with the Thunder are "remote," though, as they have a full roster and three point guards on board with Eric Maynor returning from a torn ACL and Reggie Jackson -- the 24th overall pick out of Boston College last year -- entering his second season. The same goes for Miami, which has had talks with Fisher but doesn't appear motivated to bring him on board.
Fisher, according to a source close to him, turned down an opportunity to join Chicago before the Bulls signed Nate Robinson to back up Kirk Hinrich. But he now finds himself in a similar situation to Martin.
Does he sign on with a non-contender (say, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Cleveland or Charlotte) for the minimum, or wait it out until mid- or late-season and jump on someone's championship-bound train? And if the ideal situation never arises, is there a chance the 38-year-old calls it a career and retires? We shall see.
The prospects remain equally weak for Barbosa, the 29-year-old former Sixth Man of the Year (2006-07) who spent last season with the Pacers.
He told Brazilian website UOL Esporte that Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Phoenix were all in the mix for his services, though The New York Times immediately refuted the claim about the Nets. Barbosa struggled last season in Indiana (8.9 points, 1.5 assists, 19 minutes per game on 39.9 percent shooting overall) but played well for Brazil in the London Olympics and clearly has plenty left to offer. Whether the offers follow before training camp next month, however, remains to be seen.
Redd deserves another shot to finish his career on his terms, but it's not happening so far. The always-classy former All-Star and Olympian made a triumphant return from seemingly-endless knee injuries last season, averaging 8.2 points and 15 minutes per game for Phoenix after multiple tears of his ACL and MCL limited him to just 61 games in the previous three seasons. Last season, Redd -- who has reportedly drawn interest from Chicago -- would tell anyone who would listen how thankful he was to be back playing the game he loved. He had enough good moments with the Suns to warrant interest, too, among them a 25-point outing against Houston in on March 18 and a 23-point effort against the Lakers on April 7. Here's to hoping he isn't done yet.
On the big man front, a source says 7-foot-1, 280-pound Ukrainian center Kyrylo Fesenko is scheduled to work out for San Antonio next week. The Spurs aren't the only team wanting a look at the 25-year-old, though, as Fesenko -- who spent most of last season on Indiana's bench after playing his first four seasons in Utah -- may work out in Cleveland soon thereafter. There have also been discussions with Miami and Atlanta.
The Heat have only Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman at the center spot and are clearly on the lookout for a big man. According to numerous reports, they have been considering the likes of former Knicks center Josh Harrelson, former Denver center Chris Andersen and former Sacramento center Hassan Whiteside.
Former lottery pick Terrence Williams is still considering his options as well, and a source with knowledge of his situation says the 25-year-old small forward is working out for the Pistons in Detroit this week.
Williams, who had a strong second half last season with Sacramento, played under Pistons coach Lawrence Frank in New Jersey as a rookie. He was taken 11th overall by the Nets out of Louisville in 2009. Dallas and Boston are believed to be interested as well.