Harrison Barnes is talking again. He was flashing his bright smile as he answered question after question. No, he’s not giving details about his injury. But if he keeps looking like he did Wednesday, no one will care.
The rest of Warriors world was smiling, too. Because the projected future star is back. The secret weapon for the upstart Golden State, who tantalized with his performance in the playoffs last year, looked pretty good in his season debut. In 14 minutes, he made 6 of 8 shots for 14 points. Most important, he gave a glimpse of just how the dynamic the Warriors can be when fully loaded.
They were clearly superior to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who many consider to be in the hunt for one of the final playoff seeds. Golden State cruised late to a 106-93 without getting much from star point guard Stephen Curry. Certainly, Barnes productive return only gives more credence to the high expectations facing the Warriors.
Here is the transcript from his post-game interview, the first time he’s talked to the media in a month.
How did it feel out there?
“I was just trying to get the jitters out. Obviously, I hadn’t played in like a month. … Bogut just told me to breathe.”
Did you expect to have some rust?
“I honestly tried not to even come with any mindset. The night before, I’m thinking one of two extremes: It’s going to be terrible or it’s going to be great. I tried to come in there just even kiel and whatever happens, happens. First game back.”
When did you know it was great?
“I’m still not sure it was great. Defensively, they let me know I was terrible. (Laughs). So you’re going to have to take both sides.”
How did your toe feel?
“It felt good. Obviously, I’m just progressing back slowly. (We’ll) increase the minute load and get back to just playing without any restrictions.”
That was your first time coming off the bench ever?
“Since high school, my freshman year of high school.”
How did it feel?
“I mean, we’re all about winning here. So guys worrying about their roles, guys worrying about their numbers, we just don’t do that here. I don’t know how other teams do it, but here we’re all about winning. Coach Jackson, that’s what he believes in first and foremost and that’s what we as players embody. It’s about winning. At the end of the day, if you win, we’ve seen the track record of guys getting paid. At least since I’ve been here.”
What was this whole process like for you?
“It was good, actually. I got a chance to understand my body a little better and I got a chance to understand the game just watching from the sidelines. It wasn’t too bad once I was able to start working out on the court.”
So it wasn’t frustrating to have to sit out?
“Yeah, in China it was tough not being on the court. Obviously, in a different country, all the fan fare, all that stuff, not being able to play. But when we came back stateside, I was able to get on the court and workout. So it was alright.”
When did you start to feel the pain?
“In terms of injury, I’m not going to get into much detail about it. It’s much better now and looking forward to the season.”
So are you 100 percent? Is the injury done?
How you think I looked out there today?
Terrible on defense
“Well, I guess you gotta take it for what it’s worth then. (laughs) When my defense gets back up to par, then I’m 100 percent.”
“I feel great.”
So the next thing for you is to get in game shape?
“Mostly just rhythm. Obviously, you can’t simulate a game. Twenty minutes in Denver is different from 20 minutes against San Antonio, which is different than 20 minutes against Houston. Just different types of play. So game condition, that’ll come with time. The biggest thing is getting your rhythm back.”
Have they told you what they want you from you in the new role?
“My role last year when I touched the rock, and this year when I touch the rock, it remains the same. Try to be productive and try to score. So that’s what I’m going to try to do. Who knows, playing with the second unit, maybe I can work on my playmaking as well.”
What did it mean for the lead to increase while Stephen Curry was in the locker room?
“It was huge. I know that’s been a huge thing with us all season: when the starters go out, how will the team respond? For us to be able to hold that lead, especially with a guy like Steph back here, it was great. Against a good team.”
Can you envision what it would take for you to be successful in this role?
“I put in a lot of work all summer. Regardless of whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, people are going to see the improvement in my game. Its just about being productive in the minutes.Not necessarily starting, coming off the bench, or being the sixth, seventh, eighth man. Its about being productive in your minutes because regardless of what your title is, if you’re not productive out there, it doesn’t matter.”
What did you think of Curry’s between-the-legs pass to you on that fast break?
“I thought he was going to try his famous dunk that he tried last year here, and I got the tip dunk. So I was running thinking I’m going to get the tip dunk this time. It was a nice pass.”