With his wedding and offseason behind him, I chat with Harrison Barnes about his improvements, the current state of the Mavs and more.
On the evening before Media Day in Dallas, here is my chat with Harrison Barnes before the official start of the season.
“I had other plans for the start, but what about Carmelo Anthony? How did you hear about the news and what do you think about the move?” I asked Barnes after we hit record on the phone.
“Man I was actually parked at an AT&T store and Dwight Powell was inside. We were talking and he was like, ‘did you hear about Melo going to OKC?’ I was like ‘ahhh I didn’t’. From a player’s perspective you are happy he is in a good situation. Him and the Knicks were both able to part and start a new chapter and it worked out,” Barnes said.
We then transitioned to my original plan for the start of the conversation; his wedding. After we chatted some about the publicity of his wedding, we then talked about his friendship with Kyrie Irving that started back in high school.
I also asked him his opinion on if Irving was criticized unfairly for requesting his trade.
"“Guys want to blaze their own path. Obviously we talked a little bit about it. He wanted a change of scenery. He tried to go about it discretely, it was leaked to the media, not by his camp,” Barnes said. “I think he ended up in a great situation where he should be able to do everything he wants to do.”"
After we finished talking about Kyrie, we then turned the conversation to talking about this past free agency and how it would have been different if he hit free agency this summer compared to last.
“It would have been very different. Last summer, everybody was signing very large deals, myself included, I benefited from that. Something that was said at the time was the summer of 2017 is going to be even bigger than this summer…Hopefully the salary cap can at least stay where it is at or increase a little bit rather than rescind like they are predicting for next summer,” Barnes said.
It’s crazy to think about how drastically it changed over the course of 12 months and how players like Nerlens Noel are playing on qualifying offers.
The next part of the conversation focused on his personal game and the criticism he has heard over the years. I asked him how he deals with people trying to pick apart his game every offseason and this was his response.
"“For me, it is always interesting to see what the buzzword is. For a number of years, it was dribble, dribble, dribble. Once that was done, it was he can’t score consistently, he can’t be a go-to guy. You see these criticisms all the time. The biggest thing is just growth and improvement. That has been something I have been trying to do over the course of every single year I have been in the league,” Barnes said."
Last year, Barnes couldn’t dribble (sarcasm implied) and now the criticism is that Barnes can’t pass or rebound, but he knows where he is lacking and that if he improves in those areas, it should result in wins.
"“Last year, making that step to making sure I can score consistently, show the fact that I can create a shot for myself at anytime. Show that I can do what it takes to win some games down the stretch, that was big. Now it’s just improving things like your free throws, your playmaking, the rebounding, all of those things that people continuously say and get better at those things and win more games,” Barnes said."
“For me, it’s going to start with rebounding” Barnes on his one area to focus on improving
“So you don’t have any fake Twitter accounts to argue with fans?” I jokingly asked.
“Nah nah nah, there are too many of those going around right now,” Barnes laughingly said.
I then asked Barnes to narrow it down to one thing that he is going to focus on getting better at this year and he said rebounding.
“For me it’s going to start with rebounding. The ability to get the ball and push it in transition. That is going to create more opportunities to playmake in transition, I think its going to create more opportunities to get to the free throw line. I think it is going to increase the chances of getting easy buckets as well, even transition threes. All of the criticisms can one way or another be linked to rebounding. Rebounding is the one thing we can control via effort,” Barnes said.
When I asked if him playing the three or four on the court would affect that, he doesn’t believe so with how the league is changing.
“Nah not really. In this league right now, it’s less about what your title is or position you are. There is so much switching, so much position-less basketball that whether I am a three or four, I can be taking as many shots as the two guard on the other team,” Barnes said.
Then we transitioned to the current Dallas Mavericks and the biggest addition of the offseason…Dennis Smith Jr.
“I think it can be huge for us. His ability to get the rebound and push it up the floor, being able to finish at the rim. That is going to give us a different look that we didn’t have last year. Just his ability, even in the half court, to get in the lane, penetrate. He’s proven he can score at least within the team going against us everyday,” Barnes said.
When I asked him about Smith Jr.’s leaping ability, Barnes said “Definitely one of the top in the league.”
From the 19-year-old kid to the 39-year-old legend entering his 20th season, I asked Barnes about what to expect in Dirk Nowitzki’s 20th season.
“Same thing people have been expecting from him. He is going to come in and be effective and score the ball. Above that, it’s the energy he brings into the team and gym every single day. When he comes into the gym, he makes it fun to be there. Just because he is going to be saying something. He is always getting somebody going. Getting debates started,” Barnes proclaimed.
Most people have already counted out the Mavericks this season, but what would have to happen for this team to be a playoff team?
“It’s just being consistent. We have seen small stretches where we can play good basketball, but can we do that for a consistent year? This year I don’t think we are going to have as much player movement in terms of roster, but now its like can we build the chemistry quickly to establish a rhythm,” Barnes said.
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After this, I went on a few rapid fire questions where I asked Barnes funny questions about the team where he gave short answers. When I asked who the funniest Maverick is, it was a no-brainer for him. “Dirk…not even close. Wild. None [stories] I can even share off the record. They are just wild,” Barnes said.
I went on to ask rapid questions about Salah Mejri, Rick Carlisle and which Mav he would pick in the octagon.
To wrap up the chat, I asked Barnes two questions about his personal life in regards to what marriage advice he would give to newly married couples and what God has taught him the most over the past year.
You can listen to the whole conversation on the September 27th podcast episode of the Locked On Mavericks Podcast.
It’s always good chatting with Harrison Barnes and the stage is set for another big season for the Tar Heel in Dallas.