At media day, when asked about the SF competition, Barnes expressed appreciation that he had a coach willing to consider a rookie to start. But when discussing his chances, he simply left it at “we’ll see.”
Uh oh. Sounds like whatever he had brewing is working.
Late last night, after the evening practice, I was talking with a source about the small forward competition. This source, who I trust and has seen every second of practice, said rookie Harrison Barnes has been special the first two practices. He went as far as saying “it’s Harrison Barnes’ job to lose.” Coming from him, it says something. Trust me.
Now, I’ve been considering Barnes a long shot of sorts in favor of easing him along, not putting too much pressure on him. We don’t get much practice, but allowing Barnes to develop methodically is a good plan. But it sounds like Barnes is having the kind of camp so far that makes him a serious contender to start. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised by the strong endorsement. Barnes has been flying under-the-radar lately and coach Mark Jackson has seemed pretty hesitant to tout him too hard. (Maybe that is a hint.) He praises him, but he usually quickly follows by pointing out it’s early or he hasn’t done it in games yet or he has a lot of room to grow.
No doubt, Barnes has the size and athleticism to feel the void at small forward. Golden State doesn’t need offense, which is his strength, but Jackson said Barnes has been working on his defense since the team began working out in earnest after Labor Day. Barnes has been chasing around Klay Thompson to help improve his defensive skills. Apparently it’s helping. If Barnes can hold his own defensively, Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson had better watch out.
I still like the idea of bringing him along slowly. But nothing wrong with the best player getting the nod, rookie or no.