Harrison Barnes knows a thing or two about the quirks of the NBA.
Like winning a championship ring one season, and then being part of the same team that blew up a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Like being on court playing a game in Dallas and being told that he had been traded to Sacramento. And then packing up and leaving for a different franchise with a different team culture in a different city over a thousand miles away.
But Barnes ― having played seven years in the NBA for three different teams ― has learnt to take the crests and troughs in his stride.
Ask him about that controversial trade in February this year and he says that he felt no resentment towards the Mavericks for the decision they made or how they made it.
“It’s part of the job,” Barnes told Firstpost in an interview on Tuesday. “As an NBA player, you also understand the business side of things.”
Visiting India for the first time, Barnes has attended to the ‘business side of things’ over the last three days ― his packed India schedule included attending the Reliance Foundation Jr NBA National Finals, judging the National Finals of the fourth ACG-NBA Jump and making live television appearances on Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 3’s NBA wraparound shows.
In between all of this, he spoke to Firstpost about that trade which changed his life, the mental uncertainty of being an NBA player, his stint with the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings’ chances of making it to the Playoffs next season, the upcoming NBA India Games in October (where his team, the Kings, will take on Indiana Pacers in two exhibition games in Mumbai) and the need for athletes and teams to take a stand about issues that matter. Excerpts:
How do you deal with this uncertainty of being an NBA player? One minute you were playing for the Mavericks in Dallas and then next you were told you had been traded to Sacramento?
The biggest thing you realise when you come into the NBA is that there are a lot of moving parts, whether you look at it from the franchise perspective or the player perspective. At the end of the day, you’re still living your dream! You’re playing in the NBA and that’s the most important thing. I’ve been fortunate to play for three great franchises in three great cities. I’m looking forward to having just good basketball ahead of me. There are lots of things you cannot really control but going out there and playing the game is the best part.
Was there some sort of resentment when you were traded mid-game, mid-season to the Kings by Dallas?
No. The other side of being an NBA player is understanding the business side of things. Like I said earlier, players get moved. Things of that nature happen. It’s part of the job. At the end of the day, I’m happy to be in Sacramento living my dream every day.
Would you say that having that mental uncertainty is the most difficult part of being an NBA player?
I wouldn’t say uncertainty. There are a lot of moving parts…a lot of things that can happen. The biggest things if just focusing on your craft. On any given day, being the best basketball player that you can be. It’s what every basketball player strives to do. Five best players in the world on the court at the same time ― fans love to see that. That’s the focus. Not what could happen.
You had mentioned in a previous interview that when you left the Warriors, you sent each of your teammates a personalised text message bidding them adieu. Did you do the same when you left the Mavs?
No, because we were all together when the trade happened. So I saw them. I got a chance to give them a hug in the locker room. It was different with the Warriors. When I left them, I was in Iowa at the time.
When you leave a team, it’s tough at times. But, I’ve been fortunate that every team I’ve gone to it has been a great situation. When I came to Sacramento, I got a warm welcome ― from my teammates, from the fans and the people of the city. So it’s been great at the Kings.
You won a title with the Warriors. And then you have been with two other teams. Is there something that NBA Championship winning teams do differently than other teams?
To be NBA champions, there are a lot of factors that go into it. Timing is the biggest thing. At the Warriors, we had a group of guys together for four years. It’s very rare to have six guys who were there that long. A lot of teams don’t have that luxury: of time. They have to be good in a two-year or a one-year window because of financial constraints and age and all such factors.
You’ve played for the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks before coming to the Sacramento Kings. How has the culture at this team been different?
This is the youngest team I’ve been a part of. From that perspective playing for the Kings is pretty cool. The culture is good. The guys are young, hungry and eager to learn. So that’s good to be a part of. We’re all trying to get to the same place: getting this franchise back to the Playoffs.
The Sacramento Kings haven’t made it to the Playoffs since 2006. They came very close this season. What’s the one thing they need to do next season to maybe make the cut?
As with everything in life, things take time. We have a young group of guys that came together this season and I joined after the trade so I have been working on getting that chemistry with them on the floor. It’s tough in such a short amount of time. But it’s still promising given everything we have. Next season young guys like De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles will have an extra year of experience (under their belt). They’re very talented players with a very bright future. We should be a good team next year.
Has there been a lot a conversation in the Sacramento Kings’ locker room about the NBA India Games?
Yes, there has been a lot of talk. None of us have been to India before. This is my first time. Vivek (Ranadive) has been showing us the different types of suits that he’s going to give us, so we’re excited about that. The team’s looking forward to it.
Besides the food, what has been the biggest takeaway for you from your trip to India?
I have been just getting out a little bit. I went to India Gate. So that was pretty cool. It was a great experience and it was a great feeling to be here.
When you go back to USA, what’s the first thing you would want to tell your Sacramento Kings teammates about India? Something that they may not find on the Internet.
The food here is way better than in the United States. I was a big fan of Indian cuisine. I’ll try to get some of my teammates to try it as well. I’ll also tell them that the fans in India are very passionate about the game of basketball. As a player, you want to play in front of people who appreciate your craft. I’ll tell my teammates that they’ll be receiving a warm welcome.
Throughout your career, you’ve been outspoken about the issues that bother you, such as police brutality. How important do you think it is for players and even teams to understand their role in a community and take a stand sometimes on issues that matter?
No question! One thing that was really cool this year was when we played the Milwaukee Bucks and we had a joint venture called Team up for Change, where we talked about the issues that were affecting our community such as police brutality. It was pretty much us saying that we as basketball players and as basketball organisations have a voice and a platform to speak about things and encourage things.
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Updated Date: May 01, 2019 10:47:48 IST