HoopsHype FC Barcelona rumors

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European powerhouse FC Barcelona has elevated its pursuit of Copeland and wants to start negotiations on a lucrative contract for the 6-foot-8 forward, league sources told RealGM. Copeland will listen to all potential suitors, but still, he’s made clear his willingness to return to the Knicks even if they aren’t able to match his most pricey offer. RealGM

“Returning is very much an option,” agent John Spencer told RealGM. “He turned down several options to play, turned down enormous money to get an NBA opportunity last year. He wants to play and wants to contribute. The Knicks are a good organization, with Mike Woodson and the list goes on. There’s a chance another team will potentially pick him up, obviously, but the Knicks gave Chris the opportunity to play and he’s loyal because of that.” RealGM

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There are natural goal-scoring strikers and Stockton-esque midfield setup men all over the world soccer map, but no one has ever combined those two talents like Messi. Not even Maradona. Which is why a certain Mr. Bryant, self-avowed Barcelona fanatic, chimed in to say that Messi actually has more in common with The Great One than basketball's Chosen One. "Messi," Kobe told ESPN.com this week, "is more (Wayne) Gretzky." ESPN.com

For Luol Deng, All-Star swingman from the Chicago Bulls and a lifelong Arsenal supporter who knows precisely how it feels to chase James around a 94-by-50 hunk of wood, it's Messi. Deng introduces an interesting fresh variable by bringing up Messi's ceiling, which is indeed higher than LeBron's because his whole legacy changes in a dramatic way if Argentina wins just one World Cup in his time. "As good as LeBron is," Deng says, "I have to go with Messi. Because what he's doing, he's about to, he's on pace to (become) the best ever." Whoever Barcelona's playing, you're just interested to watch because Messi's playing." ESPN.com

Said Simone Sandri, NBA correspondent for Italy's famed La Gazzetta dello Sport and a former professional soccer player in his country's Serie B and Serie C divisions with, among others, his hometown club Novara: "If I have to cast my vote, I have to say LeBron. Leo is obviously having another fantastic season, but LeBron, in my opinion, is having a bigger impact. Barca is such a machine that I really believe, for the sake of argument, that they could afford a Messi injury and still reach some of their goals at the end of the season. "It's hard to imagine the same thing for the LeBron-less Heat. I would have to say that, right now, LeBron is bigger threat to his opponents. Not to put Messi down, but shutting Messi down does not mean shutting Barca down. That's a team that can hurt you in many ways. Shutting down LeBron doesn't guarantee you a win over the Heat, either, but it's a bigger step in that direction." ESPN.com

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