Dirk Nowitzki has unfortunately missed time this season due to a sore Achilles, but in his absence new Maverick Harrison Barnes has stepped up and dazzled in his first run as the go-to guy on an NBA team.
“He’s been phenomenal for us,” Nowitzki told reporters in New York, according to Basketball Insiders. “We isolate him some and we post him some. He’s been shooting the ball well. He’s been the real deal for us, and he’s only 24. He’s a workhorse. We’ve got to lock him out of the gym, at times, he’s in there so much. He just works it all the time and it’s paying off for him. On top [of that], he’s a nice guy, wants to get better, wants to help the team. We’re all happy for him and we’re happy with his play, obviously, and he’s got to keep it going, obviously, especially now.”
That work ethic will hopefully pay dividends for Barnes, and for the Mavericks, throughout his career as he continues to perform in an expanded role in Dallas. Before signing with the Mavs this summer, Barnes was only the fourth or fifth option in Golden State for several years. The Dallas front office bet big that, given the opportunity, the 24-year-old would be able to grow his game and perform at a high level every night. So far, that bet has paid off.
“Harrison definitely has that quality,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “He has that gene. He’s focused, he’s intense, he works hard. He works as hard as Dirk. I think in the system he’s played in, though, he’s played to the system and now he’s got to be the system in a lot of respects. That will be his challenge. Does he have that ‘f— you’ [attitude] in him?”
He later added: “We felt like he was a system player that when you gave him the opportunity to be himself, he could be much bigger and much better. If you look at his first year and his first playoff run as a rookie against Denver I think it was, he was dominating. He was their best player. We thought that was still there, we just had to take the opportunity to bring it out of him.”