Harrison Barnes Spotlight

Harrison Barnes is bringing his championship chops to Dallas and has been the Mavericks' go-to guy this season.

When Harrison Barnes inked a four-year, $94 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks this past summer, he was greeted with skepticism from fans and basketball aficionados across the country. It was perhaps the most doubt cast upon a player who carried the titles of first-round pick, NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist on his resume.

The last image of Barnes before he signed the big contract was his Golden State Warriors losing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Barnes shot under 15 percent in the final three games. Of course, in Golden State, Barnes was buried under a heap of talent that included Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

However, to say Barnes has lived up to expectations this season would be an understatement. It’s hard to imagine too many folks had him posting back-to-back 30-point performances, like he did in early November. Or see him hitting an off-balance game-winner, as he did on Dec. 23 in a road win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Or see him dominating an overtime game as he did just last week against the Utah Jazz.

Harrison Barnes has silenced the critics, and ironically, he’s done so in his own tasteful style.

Barnes came into a situation with the Mavericks where there was an established franchise leader in Dirk Nowitzki and a vocal leadership presence in Wesley Matthews. Instead of trying to become somebody he’s not, Barnes went to work his way.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He just does things the way he does it and he’s just a really hard worker. He does everything with a lot of conviction, so that carries weight.”

After Barnes’ big game against the Jazz last week, Carlisle said Barnes has been great this season and then went on to elevate him into some elite company.

“His work ethic is second-to-none of any player I’ve ever been around, as a player or a coach,” Carlisle said.

Carlisle, by the way, played alongside Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton and has coached the likes of Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

It wasn’t just the coach that Barnes left a strong impression on. Matthews, an established leader on the team coming into the season, said it was Barnes’ play and demeanor that got his attention.

“He carries himself way more mature than any 24-year-old I’ve ever seen,” Matthews said. “He works his ass off every single day and he’s just one of those good guys.”

Barnes credits his maturity to two consecutive trips to the NBA Finals with the Warriors the past two seasons. The maturation process was expedited once Nowitzki went through some injury problems early in the season, vaulting Barnes into a primary scoring threat for the team. He said he turned that adversity into an opportunity to learn on the fly and be aggressive.

Success on the court aside, Barnes said it was important to him to gain the respect of his teammates and coaches.

“That’s huge,” Barnes said. “That makes all of this work. To be able to get as many touches as I do, to be able to get the ball in late-game, end-of-quarter—whenever we need a basket—all of that stuff factors in.

When you have teammates, a coaching staff and organization that has that kind of confidence in you, it’s great. It gives you a confidence boost and allows you to just relax and go out there and play.”

So what was the key in his mind to earn that confidence?

“For me, it’s work ethic,” Barnes said. “Coming into the gym every single day, guys seeing you work … I think regardless of how much you say or all that type of stuff, your work ethic speaks volumes, so when you do say something, guys can respect you because they see you in the gym every day working on your craft. They see you coming in on the off days, taking care of your body, and I think that builds equity.”

proprietor Mark Cuban, who likened Barnes’ demeanor somewhat to that of Nowitzki’s, said it’s that mentality of Barnes that stood out to him the most.

“He wants to work,” Cuban said. “[He’s] in the gym first, out of the gym—either he or Dirk or Wes turn out the lights. That’s the kind of guy you want.”

Despite all the success Barnes has had, in the locker room and on the court, Cuban says there is even more to come.

“We knew he could be special; we just didn’t know how soon,” Cuban said. “We haven’t seen even the beginning of Harrison Barnes yet.”

Just make sure you’re paying attention as Barnes continues to impress in his own way.

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