by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Somewhere in between the Rising Stars Game and the Dunk Contest, Harrison Barnes finds a moment during All-Star Weekend 2014 to relax. He’s wearing a zipped-up adidas windbreaker and jeans, and squinting into the sun creeping over New Orleans’ French Quarter just before noon. He stretches out on one of the many couches littered around adidas’ All-Star set-up. The kid deserves a minute to kick his feet up—so far this season, Barnes’ points (10.3 ppg) and minutes (29.1 mpg) are up from his rookie season despite a move to the bench with the team’s addition of veteran swingman Andre Iguodala. We asked Barnes about his new role, his time at All-Star, the Warriors’ second half and more.
SLAM: How was your experience in the Rising Stars game this year?
Harrison Barnes: It was good. You see these guys all the time but never get a chance to kick it with them or play alongside them, so it was fun.
SLAM: Who was one guy that you had fun playing with in particular?
HB: Definitely Andre Drummond. It felt like every miss, he was right there for the rebound or a tip-dunk. He was fun to play alongside, and if you don’t know Andre, he’s a funny person, too. A lot of laughs.
SLAM: Did anyone impress you that you hadn’t seen up close yet?
HB: Tim Hardaway, Jr. We haven’t played the Knicks yet, so I haven’t really seen him play. But he got hot.
SLAM: Was there anyone you got to meet during All-Star Weekend that you walked away thinking, Wow.
HB: I got a chance to talk a lot with Karl Malone. I had a chance to meet him during Jerry Sloan’s big retirement ceremony, him and Stockton. That was cool. I just sat down with him and got a chance to talk to him for a little bit. He’s got a lot of good insight. Just his attitude. The biggest thing in this league, whether you’re putting in work or not putting in work, whether you’re healthy or not, whatever it is, attitude is what’s going to determine how far you go.
SLAM: You’re here at All-Star Weekend but not playing in the big game on Sunday night. What’s it going to take for you to come back to this weekend as an All-Star in the future?
HB: Obviously, first is winning more. Eighth in the West isn’t going to do it. But just consistency. You look at all these dudes that are in [the All-Star Game], every single night they do it. They’re not having a big game one night, then only having a big game every third game. These guys, every single night, they’re putting in the work. For me, it’s going to be consistency. I know I can play at a high level. The difference between me and those guys, they do it for 82. I might do it for, you know, 15. So that’s where I’ve got to get to.
SLAM: Is your role different this year with the Warriors?
HB: Yeah, of course it’s different, coming off the bench as opposed to starting. But it’s been good for me just to see how things work. I’ve had a chance to be in that role where you start the game off and try to get in a rhythm, but coming off the bench, you gotta be a loaded gun. You’ve got to be ready to go, and be ready to impact the game. It took me a while, and I’m still working on it. I used to come in the game off the bench and kind of still be in that “get in a rhythm” mode, and it just doesn’t work, because the game’s already started, your minutes are going to be broken up, it’s not going to be consistent. You can’t come in with that “get into a rhythm” type game, you have to come in—and not necessarily shoot all the time—but you’ve got to be aggressive from the jump.
SLAM: Where do you feel like you’re at with your game right now at the midway point of the season?
HB: I always want to push further, I always want to push the limit. But I feel like we’re in a good spot. This year, we had a lot of expectations, and we haven’t quite played as consistently as we want to, but we’ve seen that if we play our style of basketball and everyone is clicking on all cylinders, we can beat anybody.
SLAM: Who in your mind is the best team in the West right now?
HB: I’m going to come back to this term again—in terms of consistency, probably the Spurs. For some reason, if they have their stars playing or don’t have their stars playing, doesn’t matter. It’s crazy, against teams in the top of each division, they’re below .500, but they’re like 31-2 against teams .500 and below. They always take care of their business, every single night, no letdowns.
SLAM: And you guys got an up close and personal look at them in the Playoffs last year. What did you learn from that series?
HB: You’ve got to execute on such a higher level. We’d go into games and, we’re an exciting team, but we played a little reckless last year. When you play reckless against a team like that, where they just execute and run their sets, that beat us, and last year got us kicked out of the playoffs. So we know coming in this year, it’s like, when you get in those situations, you’ve really go to execute.
SLAM: What have you seen from Stephen Curry this year that’s taken his game up a notch to All-Star level?
HB: I think with him, honestly, it’s just confidence. Last year, I think he was still trying to prove that he’s that guy. Now, he is that guy. He can go out there and get 40, he can go out there and get a triple-double. It’s just a higher level of controlling the game, and he’s doing a much better job of managing it.
SLAM: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen him do in practice?
HB: It’s funny, he’s got this little board in our weight room—he shoots a hundred threes a day, and he writes it down, what he shoots. And at first, I didn’t really know what the numbers were. But when I found out, I’m like, That’s ridiculous. It’s like 80, 80, 90, 85. He’s just constantly shooting. He’s been doing this, I think, since the beginning of the year. I’m thinking like maybe it’s free throws out of 100 someone’s shooting, and he’s like, Nah it’s threes. It’s ridiculous.
SLAM: What’s going on with your Tar Heels this year?
HB: We’re struggling a little bit. It’s a young team still trying to find their way. But I think that we’ll surprise a lot of people when it comes to Tournament time. We always rise to the big games.
SLAM: Speaking of UNC, what’s it been like watching your Kendall Marshall finally have some success with the Lakers?
HB: It’s been great. Kendall is obviously a good friend of mine. He’s worked so hard to get in that situation. He had to go through that whole thing with Phoenix, had to go to the D-League. He’s good now, people are starting to jump on the bandwagon, and really starting to appreciate his game.
SLAM: And now you’ve got him on the West Coast, too.
HB: Of course, but we’re trying to be the best team in California. That’s what we’re trying to do. Two other Tar Heels—Reggie [Bullock] and Kendall, but we’re the best team.
SLAM: Do all you guys keep in contact and stay pretty close?
HB: Of course. There’s always a lot of trash talk, any time we play the Clippers, any time we play the Lakers, where we’re at in the standings—we do all that stuff.
SLAM: What’s the main topic of the trash talking?
HB: It’s different, like with John [Henson], we should have beat them twice last year but they beat us twice, so he’s like, Well you’ve never beat me. With Reggie it’s like, we’re ranked higher, we’re the better team. Stop it. Stop, don’t even get gassed up over there. And with Kendall, he’s not even close, man.
SLAM: Do you guys have a group text going on or what?
HB: We have a group thread with all the Carolina guys—me, John, Kendall, Reggie, Leslie [McDonald], PJ [Hairston], we all keep in touch.
SLAM: What’s your favorite shoe to wear right now?
HB: It’s so different, because back in high school and college, it’s all about just, What kicks are you wearing on the court. One thing now with adidas is that there are so many lifestyle kicks, which are so nice. Like with Big Sean, the new 2 Chainz ones that just came out, the Mutombos, all these great walk-around shoes, so it’s been fun. My favorite, I like the new 2 Good to be T.R.U.’s, I do like those.
SLAM: Have you gotten to know the other Team adidas guys better this weekend?
HB: We have a fun group of guys. A lot of us came in together, like me and Damian [Lillard], who have gotten a chance to know each other. Then we’ve got other guys like Iman [Shumpert] with a lot of personality, John Wall is a real cool guy. A lot of these young guys, Tim [Hardaway Jr], Ben [McLemore], they have a lot of attitude. I think on the whole, we have a lot of guys who are on the rise, In the Dunk Contest, four out of the six guys were adidas guys.
SLAM: When you were coming up as a kid, who were the dunkers in the NBA that you really liked to watch?
HB: Probably one of the best to ever do it: Vince. The way guys do windmills in the Dunk Contest now, he would do that in the lane, in traffic, with bodies. He has a mix on YouTube, his Top 100, it’s just stupid. It is stupid, man. He was absolutely ridiculous. I think he’s the best dunker to ever come through.