OAKLAND — When the Sacramento Kings blew up their season, jettisoning DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Pacific Division club set in motion a chain of events that would make Matt Barnes the NBA’s most popular 37 year old.
“They were so adamant about not trading DeMarcus,” Barnes said after the Golden State Warriors’ shoot around on Wednesday. “And then once they traded him, obviously my mindset is they’re starting over. Also, my mindset is I’m too old to start over.”
On Feb. 20, the day after the Kings sent Boogie out of town, Barnes and general manager Vlade Divac spoke and the pair agreed that the best move was to part ways.
That’s when calls started flooding in.
“[Kevin Durant] called me. Draymond called me,” Barnes said. “I talked to James Harden and Trevor Ariza [of the Houston Rockets]. DeAndre [Jordan] and Chris Paul [of the Los Angeles Clippers]. [The] San Antonio [Spurs] called. The [Cleveland Cavaliers] called.”
Then the waiting game started.
With teams around the league deciding what to do with players under 10-day contracts and the trade deadline looming, Barnes bided his time in Los Angeles, hanging out with kids and staying in shape.
The most important call came on Feb. 28, hours after Durant had sprained his left MCL and suffered a bone bruise. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was on the other end.
“Coach Kerr called me at about 10 o’clock that night and I was on a plane to Chicago the next day,” Barnes said.
The 13-year vet, whose team has made the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons, is proud of the fact that so many giants of the game reached out after his tenure with the Kings ended.
“I think that’s what I kind of hang my hat on is I’ve obviously had a well-traveled career,” Barnes said. “And there’s been a lot of downs — some ups — but I think to have the respect of the guys I play against, who I compete against, who are obviously some of the best guys in the game and to have those guys want me as a part of their team I think kind of says a lot for me.”
While admitting that he would have enjoyed returning to the Clippers so that he could be close to his kids, Barnes said it was an easy decision to join up with the Dubs.
Barnes and Durant had spoken about playing together in Golden State over the summer, but the Warriors didn’t have the financial flexibility to make it happen.
Barnes has also developed a bond with Green, who he said had been trying to recruit him for the past three seasons.
“I see a lot of my younger self in him, and just his passion and playing on the edge,” Barnes said. “And I think it’s a thin line of playing on the edge and [not] going over. And I think that edge is what keeps our competitiveness and makes us who we are.”
By joining the league’s preeminent super team, Barnes hasn’t just parachuted into a dream scenario, but is also returning to a franchise that values character, boasting a roster stocked with famously good dudes.
How that will reconcile with the one-time “We Believe” Dub is uncertain. Barnes has endured his share of off-the-court issues, getting arrested in 2010 on suspicion of domestic violence and again in 2012 for driving with a suspended license and threatening a police officer.
Most recently, when he was still a King, he was involved in a nightclub fight in New York City. Barnes faces charges of third-degree assault and obstruction of breathing for allegedly choking a woman and punching a man at Avenue in Manhattan. He has to return to court at the end of June.
As his second stint in Golden State begins, Barnes insisted that he won’t be a distraction.
“I want to come in and fit in. I don’t want to come in and stand out,” Barnes said. “I want to be a small part of something hopefully big and helping this team get another ring.
“Off the court you don’t have to worry about with me.”