TORONTO – Harrison Barnes will be back on the court Friday night and make his season debut when the Dallas Mavericks play the Toronto Raptors at 6:30 p.m. CT at Scotiabank Arena.
Barnes sat out the Mavs’ four preseason games and also missed the first four games of the regular season after straining his right hamstring during the first week of training camp last month. Dorian Finney-Smith had been starting at Barnes’ power forward spot, but will now head to the bench.
The last two seasons, Barnes led the Mavs in scoring with 19.2 points and 18.9 points, respectively. But now he’ll return Friday with some minor restrictions.
“We’re going to watch the minutes,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Friday morning’s shootaround. “I expect him to play a little shorter stretches than normal to make sure he doesn’t get super winded, because he hasn’t played in an exhibition game or a game.
“That said, he’s in great shape. He had a hard workout yesterday, he did a simulated game-type thing and he did very well. He feels good, so he’s set to go.”
The Mavs had a lengthy film session Thursday, then canceled the subsequent practice session. But Barnes was among a large group of players who came over and practiced.
“To come over yesterday, it was good,” Barnes said. “Just to get some reps in, playing against some guys. Just trying to find timing, I think that’s the biggest thing. You can try to simulate it as much as you can in practice, but you can be getting reps.
“I haven’t played in four weeks, so I’m trying to accelerate that process as best we can. Tonight will be a step in the right direction, and just kind of building and going from there.”
Thursday’s workout showed Barnes a lot about how well his hamstring has healed.
“You play a five-on-o, you play three-on-three, you kind of go fullcourt,” Barnes said. “You do stuff like that just to try to get the reps. Timing and rhythm…it’s hard to get without playing live.
“You can do a whole bunch of one-on-one workouts, but the rest of that stuff you kind of have to actually have to go out there and do. It was good, but playing tonight five-on-five against a top five defensive team in the league is s little different.”
Barnes had been the Mavs’ primary go-to player the last two seasons. That, he doesn’t think, will change.
“My job is to go out there and be aggressive offensively and defensively,” Barnes said. “I pretty much am used to adapting, so I don’t see my role changing too much.”
The Mavs (2-2) know Barnes likely won’t be able to slide right into the starting lineup and pick right up where he left off last season. After all, the Mavs have two new players in the starting lineup this season in center DeAndre Jordan and rookie forward Luka Doncic.
“He’s a high level player that we haven’t had,” Carlisle said of Barnes. “He’s a guy we can throw the ball to, (he can)create. He’s a really good two-way player, and he’s one of our leaders.
“Not having him has been tough. I expect that any time you bring a guy back after basically sitting out a month, to get his rhythm it’s going to take a while. We’re going to watch it closely and do everything possible to get him back as quickly as possible and right into the flow.”