Wolves Friday: Barea hoping for reprieve

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Almost immediately after the NBA announced its new flopping rules at the beginning of training camp in October, the NBA Players Association filed a grievance against the league and the rules.

In a statement, union head Billy Hunter said: “The NBA is not permitted to unilaterally impose new economic discipline against the players without first bargaining with the union.” However, we’ve heard little of it since, as players have been warned and now in many cases fined for second offenses, but on Friday, J.J. Barea seemed hopeful that the Players Association’s grievance would have some impact.

Barea was called for his second flop of the season Jan. 14 in Dallas, which carries a $5,000 fine. He said president of basketball operations David Kahn and his agent are working to appeal the fine and that the paperwork has be filed to do so, but he isn’t so sure of the details of the process. However, he said he spoke with Nets big man Reggie Evans, who’s also been fined, on Wednesday, and that the two aren’t worried about it.

“I think the deal is the players haven’t agreed on the rule, on the ruling,” Barea said. “The players never said yes. They’re still arguing that. The Players Association never said yes to the flopping rule.”

It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything comes of the Players Association’s attempts, but that Barea is still talking about it nearly four months after it was first mentioned may mean something. He seemed hopeful there would be some effect, at least, but for now he can do little more than appeal and, most likely, pay up.

No Ricky controversy here: Ricky Rubio was not pleased after he was sent back from the scorers’ table in the final minutes of Wednesday’s loss, when acting coach Terry Porter decided to let Barea stay in for the remainder of the game. In the locker room postgame, Rubio aired his grievances, or at least let it be known that he was upset with what had happened. Then Thursday at practice he said that he and Porter would be discussing the situation afterward, and so on Friday we awaited the outcome.

When asked about the conversation, Porter offered nothing more than that it was “good.” Rubio, too, didn’t go into specifics, but there was a definite sense the point guard felt he needed to clarify what his problems were with the situation.

“Actually, I didn’t even need to talk,” Rubio said of his conversation with Porter. “The next day I realized that maybe I didn’t deserve it because J.J. was hitting good shots. He was able to get hot at some point and get a lot of points.

“It came off like I was saying something against him, and I never went against him. It was something that was against me, by myself, because I was upset with me because I didn’t play. It doesn’t have to be against him or against the team. We’re here. We are a team, and we are set to do the best for the team.”

Barea said that he had no problem with Rubio speaking out about wanting to be in the game, even if it would have come at the expense of his own minutes.

“I’m fine with it, and he’s a competitor,” Barea said. “He wants to win. I want to win. Everybody wants to play at the end and try to help the team. Especially now, we’re losing games, so everybody’s a little frustrated and a little tired of losing. Things like that are going to happen.”

In such a situation, there are a million “imagine ifs.” Imagine if Rick Adelman had been coaching instead of Porter. Imagine if the Timberwolves had been winning at the moment Rubio was set to check in, or if they’d been losing big. Imagine if they’d ended up stealing the game on Barea’s heroics.

Had any of that been the case, there might not have been the outburst. Rubio might have been upset with himself, still, for not earning the minutes, but he also might not have said anything. Things change, though, when you lose, especially when you lose at the pace and in the ways the Timberwolves have been losing, and every player thinks that maybe he would have made the difference.

You can’t fault Rubio in this situation, or Porter, or even Barea. But give it to Rubio for handling it well in the aftermath.

A familiar face: Martell Webster said he’s in the best shape he’s been in for five years on Friday morning at the Verizon Center. Webster, who spent two injured seasons with the Timberwolves, is averaging 10.0 points and 4.0 rebounds this season for the Wizards, a good improvement over the 8.4 points and 3.4 rebounds he averaged in Minnesota.

“Healthy,” Webster said. “That’s where I’m at. That’s all I can say.”

“When I’m healthy, I can play with the best of them.”

Webster said it was tough to miss training camp both seasons in Minnesota, especially with last year’s abbreviated 66-game schedule.

“I had fun the two years I was in Minnesota,” he said. “It was just a little unfortunate that I had two back surgeries while I was there, never even got a chance to have training camp and play with my teammates. I found it hard to find a rhythm coming back midway through the season.”

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