Mavs are ‘in the trenches,’ looking forward to battling back to winning basketball

NEW YORK – The Dallas Mavericks have suddenly found themselves nestled in a nice little groove that would have put them in playoff contention if they didn’t start the season with a 9-25 record.

With the regular season ending in less than a month, over the past eight games the Mavs have posted a respectable 4-4 record. By contrast, five teams that will qualify for the playoffs if the postseason started today are playing the same level of basketball – or worst – than the Mavs have over the last eight games.

That includes Cleveland (4-4), Philadelphia (4-4), Minnesota (4-4), Washington (3-5) and Milwaukee (3-5). Also, San Antonio (3-5) and Denver (4-4) are hovering over the outer edges of the Western Conference playoff picture and are neck-and-neck with the Mavs over the past eight games.

While the Mavs may be in obvious rebuilding mode, coach Rick Carlisle insists their competitive juices are still flowing freely. Hence, the number of wins and improved play over the last eight contests.

“It takes on a different form in our situation,” Carlisle said, in reference to rebuilding. “Look, I have chosen to be here. I have a long deal.

“I know that we were probably going to hit a lower point. It’s just part of the cycle of the NBA, but I’m not going to bail on my owner who’s been so good to me. And the other part of this, too, is that this is a challenge that I’ve never been a part of, and that is to truly rebuild a team.”

For the Mavs, a tradition-rich franchise that advanced to the playoffs 15 out of 16 years from 2001-’16, losing is not a part of their culture that they want to become accustomed to. But with rebuilding, unfortunately, losing is intertwined and invariably becomes part of the painful process of being able to consistently win again.

“Yeah, you take a lot of losses,” Carlisle said. “That part is no fun. But to accomplish this, which is going to take time, it’s going to be a difficult task and it has to be handled the right way.

“But when we get there it will be one of the most meaningful things that I’ve been involved with.”

The Mavs (22-46) opened a four-game road trip this past Tuesday with a 110-97 triumph over the New York Knicks. Carlisle gave his club today off, and then they’ll travel to Toronto on Thursday and play the Raptors on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Despite headed to the NBA Draft Lottery on May 15, the Mavs’ hunger to stack up some wins still remains intact. The way the ping-pong balls bounce that day will be extremely meaningful.

“We keep playing hard,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “There’s obviously some teams that’s going for some losses now, and we’re one of the teams that still want to win and see where we end up in the draft.

“We’re still playing, we want to have a winning culture for our young guys and show them how to play, and the work ethic and how to play to win. So that is very important to us.”

Forward Harrison Barnes, who tallied a game-high 30 points in the win over the Knicks, had a simple answer on how to rebuild quickly.

“At the end of the day,” Barnes said, “the best way to get better is to get wins and to have guys getting that experience.”

Carlisle, who is in his 16th season as an NBA head coach – including his 10th with the Mavs – won an NBA title with the Mavs in 2011. The goal for Carlisle, obviously, is to find a way to get the Mavs back on the NBA’s biggest stage and capture another championship banner that can be raised into the American Airlines Center rafters.

It’s a challenge that the 58-year old Carlisle has been more than willing to accept.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that the job of head coaching in the NBA isn’t as simple as jumping from city to city looking for good talent to coach and get wins,” Carlisle said. “For me, after everything that I’ve been through with (Mavs owner) Mark (Cuban) and what he’s done for me — and I’ve done some good things for him along the way — and (general manager) Donnie (Nelson), this is a bigger picture.

“This is a deeper landscape than that. We’re in this for the long haul.”

That means the Mavs may have to take two steps backwards in other to take a step forward. Carlisle just wants everyone to be patient and trust the process.

“It’s work, but there’s no less interest in coming in every day,” Carlisle said. “There’s even more work, because the work now becomes more tipped to the player development side with our younger guys, and that’s in the trenches work.

“But those guys are in the trenches with us.”

The Mavs are banking on that work in the trenches paying off handsomely in the foreseeable future.

Notes: With the day off today in New York, rookie forward Jameel Warney got to go home and get some good food and have some fellowship with his family and friends. Warney grew up in the New York area and played college ball at nearby Stony Brook University. “I went home (Monday), so I’ll probably go home again (today) and see my family,” Warney said. Asked if he’s going to insist on having another home cooked meal, Warney smiled and said: “Definitely! You already know it.” Warney finished with eight points and three rebounds in 12 minutes during the win over the Knicks. “Great to see,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Warney. “The kid is a great kid, solid player. He earned his shot. I wanted to get him a chance to get in there early.” Warney signed a 10-day contract with the Mavs this past Sunday, and was in his season playing for the G-League’s Texas Legends. But to play in the NBA and in Madision Square Garden, Warney said: “I’m happy to be in New York and I’m happy to have my family and friends of Stony Brook and the community come out here and support me.”. .Friday’s game in Toronto will pit coach Rick Carlisle against Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who was Carlisle’s defensive coordinator when the Mavs won the 2011 NBA title. Carlisle and Casey are fast friends. The Raptors have the best record in the Eastern Conference and third-best record in the NBA at 50-17.

Injury updates

Seth Curry (left leg surgery) – out
Wesley Matthews (fractured right proximal fibula) – out
Salah Mejri (right hamstring strain) — questionable

Reading with Harrison

DALLAS – Harrison Barnes knows that being able to read is one of the essential keys to education and a critical ingredient required towards getting a college degree.

Thus, when the Dallas Mavericks forward spoke to the kids at the North Oak Cliff Branch Library on Thursday — as part of the Mavs Reading Challenge — he stressed to them that although he left the University of North Carolina after two years to chase his NBA dreams, he’s going back to college to get his degree in business administration.

“I don’t want them to think, ‘Well, he went to the NBA, he’s not really worried about his education, or his college, or he dropped out of college, too,’ ” Barnes said. “I always want them to know that I’m trying to do everything I can to continue to learn.”

“Even though I left college, even though I’m in the NBA, I still want to go back and get my degree because anything you start I feel like you should finish. And getting a degree means something.”

It also “means something” for Barnes to reiterate to kids the importance of being able to read, and to read effectively. That’s why the Mavs Reading Challenge – presented by Whataburger in partnership with the Dallas Public Library — is right up his alley.

The challenge is a 15-week program designed to improve reading literacy throughout Dallas and encourage the love of reading for kids of all ages. Parents, kids and teachers can sign up at Mavs.com/readingchallenge or at any of the 29 Dallas Public Library locations.

Kids will be able to track their reading progress for a chance to win special prizes from the Mavericks and Whataburger. To position themselves to earn prizes, the Mavs have challenged students to read (or be read to) for at least 20 minutes a day.

The participants who log 40 days by the end of the program will be entered into a Grand Prize drawing for a chance to win a Mavs Fan Experience, which includes four lower-level tickets, four High Five Line passes and a third Quarter Locker Room Tour for a Mavs home game during the 2018-’19 season.

To kick things off on Thursday, Barnes – following a warm reception from the assembled kids, teachers and parents – read the book, Where’s Spot, to the more than 100 folks in attendance.
“It was nice that he actually read to us,” said 10-year old Will Price. “I know that we can read quite a bit.”

Alexia Vazquez, 7, felt honored that Barnes came to read a book to her and the other kids at the library.

“I liked the story time,” she said. “But I’m new at that book and I’ve never seen it and I’ve never heard it.”

Neither had Barnes.

“I wasn’t familiar with that book, but I’m glad at the few times they didn’t know where Spot was going to be, so that made it all worthwhile,” Barnes said. “I tried to keep them off balance, but these kids are smart.“

In addition to listening to Barnes read Where’s Spot to them, the kids also played an intellectual game of Trivia Pursuit against the Mavs Dancers and ManiAACs. And, ahem, the kids won.

Jessica Watts, the children’s library associate, acknowledged that it’s difficult to measure the long-range ramifications of having Barnes read to the kids. But she admitted that his mere presence was a positive.

“The kids are very excited,” Watts said. “I think it’s a lot of inspiration for the kids. I believe it gives them a lot of motivation to read and stay in school and do something with themselves to have a bright future.”

“I think it motivates them, it keeps them focused and pushes them. I know sometimes they get tired of going to school, but when they get to come out and do things like this I think it keeps them involved and excited.”

This is one of Barnes’ primary platforms, so he’s always eager to go into the community and talk about the power of being able to read.

“I think it’s important just to give these kids encouragement to be reading and to get an education,” Barnes said. “No matter what level you get to, no matter what you do, you always need to be able to read, to be able to learn, to be able to gather information.”

“At the same time, when you get around kids and talk about the importance of education, that’s what it’s all about.”

Watts expressed gratitude to Barnes and to the Mavs for instilling in the kids the value of being able to read.

“I want to tell them thank you so much for taking time out of their schedule to come out and see the kids and be a good support system in the community,” Watts said. “It means a lot.”

Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott: Two kids from Ames, Iowa reunited again

It was the fall of 2006 when Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott walked into Ames High School for their freshman year.

Doug was the new kid as his family had just moved to Ames while Harrison had grown up in Ames his entire life. Both freshmen walked through the front doors of high school at the bottom of the totem pole.

For Doug, it was straight to the freshmen basketball team. Playing varsity as an underclassman was unheard of at Ames High, especially with how strict their coach was. But for Harrison, it was a different story.

“Me and my friends were playing freshman ball and he was on varsity,” McDermott said. “I remember meeting him in summer workouts in middle school. I could always tell he was going to be a really good player.”

For Doug, it took a while.

“He didn’t make varsity until his junior year,” Barnes pointed out with a grin on his face.

McDermott would spend his first two years of high school growing physically and as a basketball player before joining Barnes on the varsity team. The team knew they could be good, but the run they went on over the next two years would go down in the Ames High history books.

“Once I matured and developed a little more I was able to join him on varsity and we won 53 straight,” McDermott said.

53 straight games and back-to-back state championships.

“Those are the prime years of Ames High basketball,” Barnes said.

Barnes and McDermott headlined the team, but they also had a couple of other guys that went on to play basketball at the next level.

“Our junior year we had a guy go to Yale and Iowa State,” Barnes said. “It’s rare that you see so many people from one specific location. A small cluster of players that go on to play at some type of level outside of high school. Whether it is community college, D-1, NBA. Now, to see where we are at now.”

“Iowa basketball is pretty competitive actually. Not a lot of close games obviously with us two but we had a team around us,” McDermott added.

While Doug took his natural position at the four, Barnes played the wing, ran the point and whatever else the coach asked of him. As Doug would say, it was his job to clean up Harrison’s misses and shoot a lot of threes.

“He played the point, he ran everything. I was kind of the garbage man and cleaned up his misses. Shot a lot of threes,” McDermott said with a grin.

Harrison wasn’t your normal high school basketball player.

The hype surrounding Harrison was sky-high in Ames and it reverberated throughout the state of Iowa, but it hit the national scale when he was ranked the No. 1 player in the country during his senior season in 2009.

This brought the circus to the small town of Ames, Iowa.

“It was a really special time because he was getting a lot of hype as the ESPN No, 1 recruit in Iowa which was really cool,” McDermott said. “Everywhere we went it was really cool. We were like rock stars because of Harrison. I think we all became better players playing in front of big crowds because we were used to it at a high school level.”

“Bill Self. Coach K. Billy Donovan. All coming to our gym,” McDermott added.

Only two players in school history made it to the NBA and neither of them had the national spotlight like Barnes did.

Even though they didn’t lose a game in two years and felt like “rock stars” due to Harrison’s publicity … when you boiled it all down, they were still just high school kids enjoying their teenage years.

On Fridays, football was king in Ames.

“Go to the football game. Watch some Little Cyclones,” McDermott said on what a Friday night in high school looked like.

“We just had a good group of friends around us. In Iowa you find a way to make it fun. Campfires. Bonfires. Tailgating for football games. After the basketball games going over to friend’s basement,” McDermott added.

Harrison echoed the same memories from high school, except Harrison needed a little help getting around as he never got his license in high school.

“I never had a license or a car,” Barnes said. “I grew up with a single-parent mom and we had one vehicle. It was always with her.”

So Doug became his “road dog” as Harrison liked to call it.

“Doug‘s dad was the head coach at Iowa State. He had the Grand Prix,” Barnes said as we both shared a laugh.

“We always had to drive him around everywhere,” McDermott said with a laugh. “Those were the good ole days and carpooling. That’s where you bond as teammates and young men.”

When McDermott arrived in Dallas last month, Barnes picked him up for a season ticket holder event and they both chuckled about the irony of Harrison giving Doug a ride.

Was Harrison really a nerd in high school?

“Nah I just took advanced classes that was all,” Barnes said with a smirk.

“He was a nerd, but a cool nerd,” McDermott added. “He could have played anywhere based on his grades. He was always in honor classes and we were always stuck in the normal classes.”

Doug admitted to making fun of him for being in all of the “smart classes,” but Harrison also took heat for being in band. Harrison spent two years in the marching band playing alto saxophone.

As for who got the girls in high school, Barnes says they all wanted Doug “McBuckets” McDermott.

“I had a girlfriend. He was Fabio man, people loved McBuckets man,” Barnes said with a laugh.

After their second straight state championship, it was time to go their separate ways. Harrison held a nationally televised press conference announcing his commitment to the University of North Carolina while Doug would make his way to Omaha, Nebraska to play for Creighton University.

They would remain close during their college years, but it wasn’t until March 18, 2012 that both of their roads converged into the same path once again.

The top-seeded Tar Heels were matched up against the No. 8 seed Bluejays in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament.

For Barnes and the Tar Heels, it was the second game of a tournament run that seemed destined for a championship rematch against an Anthony Davis-led Kentucky team.

Barnes was flanked in the starting lineup by four other future NBA players: Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Reggie Bullock.

McDermott averaged 22.9 points per game while leading Creighton to a 29-6 record. The Bluejays beat Alabama in the first round before matching up with Barnes and North Carolina.

“They had like six NBA players compared to our one,” McDermott said. They were a lot more athletic. It was fun going up against Harrison.”

North Carolina would knock off Creighton 87-73. Barnes finished with 17 points and five rebounds while McDermott finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. It was the injury news after the game that dominated the headlines, though.

In the second half, North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall was fouled hard on a drive to the basket. After the game, it was announced that he had broken his wrist and would miss the rest of the tournament.

As the starting point guard and all-time single season leader in assists in the ACC, Marshall was a piece that proved to be irreplaceable as UNC would go on to lose in the Elite Eight to Kansas.

“They tried to rough us up man. They ended Kendall’s collegiate career. It was tough. Wrecked everything,” Barnes said as he reminisced back to that moment.

Barnes would leave North Carolina after that year for the NBA. McDermott would stay at Creighton for another two years, going down as one of the best collegiate basketball players of all-time. In 2014, he would win the John R. Wooden award and the Naismith Player of the Year award.

Fast forward four years later and now the high school duo are teammates once again … this time in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks.

They might be grown men now wearing different jerseys, but they both can’t help seeing flashes of their time together at Ames High.

“Just watching him and seeing how much better he has gotten. Seeing his mannerisms. Just the way Harrison runs, it still feels kind of the same which is really cool,” McDermott said.

“When he shoots it and is playing, I’m like I know this stuff and have seen it for years,” Barnes added.

Now that they’re on the same NBA team, friends and family back home have one game circled on their calendars: March 2, when the Mavericks travel to Chicago to face the Bulls.

Chicago is roughly 350 miles away from Ames, Iowa and the head coach of the Bulls is Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg hails from Ames High himself and is one of the four players to make it to the NBA out of Ames High.

“The Chicago game is going to be nuts,” Barnes said. “Coach is on this vendetta to get Dick Gibbs to the game. He’s the very first guy from Ames High to go into the NBA. All four guys from Ames High.”

It’s safe to say Ames High will be well represented that night.

Until then, it’s catching up time for Harrison and Doug. Barnes says as soon as McDermott arrived in Dallas they instantly started reminiscing about their high school years in Ames. A team trainer refers to it as “Iowa talk” as the pair discuss names and places only an Ames native would know.

“When you are from that community, you know everybody,” McDermott said. “We had a lot of fun. Those final two years of high school were probably the funnest two years of my life.”

From the car rides and Friday night football games to their 53 straight wins and two state titles, the boys from Ames High are back together again.

This time, suiting up for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA.

Harrison Barnes takes local kids to the movies

DALLAS – Harrison Barnes struck another socially conscious chord Monday night when the Dallas Mavericks’ forward paid for 150 kids to watch Hollywood’s hottest chic movie, “Black Panther,” at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas.

The superhero film is the first of the Marvel Comics series that features a predominantly African-American cast and an African-American director, and has been steadily smashing box office records. Meanwhile, Barnes wanted to make sure he did his part in helping some disadvantage kids be able to watch a movie that has created so much buzz around the world.

“I was excited to see the movie myself,” Barnes said. “But I think the opportunity to have these kids see a movie like this – a movie about a super hero from Africa – to just celebrate all different levels of blackness I think is really unique.

“To have the opportunity to be able to do this, I was going to go see it anyway. So why not invite 100 kids, get a theater and we can all watch it together.”

It’s the second time since the 2017-18 basketball season started that Barnes has invited a group of kids to see a socially conscious movie. Late last year the six-year veteran paid for over 150 kids to see the screening of the movie, Marshall, which depicted the life of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

Kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas, the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy and the After School All-Stars of North Texas were the recipients of Barnes’ latest gift. And they were definitely extremely happy for his kind gesture.

“I thought it was nice of Mr. Barnes to do that so we could watch the movie,” said Malik Hickman, a 10-year old from the Dunbar Boys and Girls Club. “Some kids probably couldn’t afford it, so I thank him. He’s really cool.”

Rachel Ellis, a 12-year-old from the Oak Cliff Boys and Girls Club, made it a point to personally thank Barnes for her being able to witness a movie that’s the talk around thousands of water coolers.

“I was very grateful when I found out he did it,” Ellis said. “It showed a great sense of community.”

Barnes joins actress Octavia Spencer and tennis superstar Serena Williams among those who paid for over 100 kids to see Black Panther. And like other movie-goers, Barnes even showed up wearing African attire.

“As you can see I’m wearing a shirt that I got from a friend from Ghana,” Barnes said. “A lot of people are dressing up to go to the movies.

“People are buying (tickets for others to see Black Panther) and trying to make sure as many people as they can will see it. I think it’s become more than just a movie. It’s more of a movement. Celebrate diversity, and hopefully if this does well, then you’ll see more movies like this.”

Mavs owner Mark Cuban was beaming with pride when discussing what Barnes was able to accomplish on Monday.

“What you do on the court is one thing, but what you do in the community and off the court says a whole lot more about who you are,” Cuban said. “Harrison always goes out of his way to put together socially conscious movies and involve the Boys and Girls Club to go visit them — always with the emphasis and the priority of education and achievement.

“Really, what you do on the court is one thing, but you find out really who somebody is by what they do off the court and in the community. That’s the true making of a star, and Harrison is a star.”

Barnes’ star sure is shining bright these days.

“People talk about should athletes be role models,” Cuban said. “Sometimes you can’t shut up and dribble. Sometimes you want to go out there and have an impact, and the only time you couldn’t have an impact is if you don’t shut up.

“And when you’re done dribbling, if you go out to the community and lead by example and involve people and create opportunities that allow them to have confidence in their future to have dreams and goals, and Harrison not only sets an example, but he propels kids towards those goals. When the dribbling stops, that’s when your voice really matters, and fortunately Harrison is not somebody who shuts up. Harrison speaks up, and that’s critical in our community.”

Ever since he heard the excitement surrounding Black Panther, Daunte Daniels was anxious about going to see what all the fuss was about.

“The movie was very good,” said Daniels, a 17-year old from the Richardson Boys and Girls Club. “It showed a lot of black culture and how we all should get along.

“The fact that (the main character in the movie) got his butt kicked, then got saved by somebody that wasn’t even supposed to be a part of the tribe anymore, and then to show the respect and save him and come back and whip the other dude, that was great.”

Shakerria West, an 18-year old from the Cedar Springs Boys and Girls Club, was overly impressed with all the African-American females who played strong pivotal roles in the movie.

“You know how in different movies how they have a King, and behind him the people who protect him are really men?,” West asked. “In this movie it was women. There were no men trying to protect him. That was crazy!

“I was like: It’s women? Where are the men? There are no men protecting him? What? That’s what made me feel like women are as strong and equal as men, because we can do the same thing men can do.”

Barnes marveled at the educational messages the writers and directors conveyed in the movie. And he was glad be brought along the kids so they could see and hear those subliminal messages.

“Usually when you see superhero movies it’s just about the male heroes,” Barnes said. “But it was a lot of strong predominantly black women that really carried that movie.

“I think that’s what put it over the top. They each had a story and they each brought something different to it, so it was great for me to see.”

Barnes gave the movie two thumbs up for several other reasons.

“Just to be able to showcase strong black characters – and talking about Africa – and strong black men and women, I think that’s unique,” he said. “It was a great film, I thought the kids loved I, and I loved it.”

Cuban loves how Barnes is always tuned in and thinking about how he can give back to the community — be it in a big or small way. Taking the kids to see Black Panther was just Exhibit A.

“Harrison walks the walk and talks the talk,” Cuban said. “He goes out and he meets with kids, he’s not about let’s bring the PR, let’s bring the press. He goes out and does it and he lives it.

“And when you talk to him, that’s what he wants to talk about. It’s not, ‘OK, what I do in this game, what I do in that game.’ It’s more, ‘What are we doing, how can we be socially conscious, what books are we reading, how can I have an impact?’

“I’ll keep on saying it again: Dribble and speak up is the best thing a player can do. I’m glad that Harrison is somebody who can not only dribble obviously, but does a helluva job speaking up.’’

Those 150 kids who got to see a movie they may not have otherwise seen are also glad Barnes spoke up and decided to invite them to a night at the theater that they’ll forever cherish.

Mario Panuco, a nine-year old from Williams Prep Boys and Girls Club, couldn’t wait to pay tribute to Barnes.

“I wanted to tell him thank you for paying for the movie,” Panuco said. “And he’s a good basketball player.”

Harrison Barnes Gives the Gift of Basketball

DALLAS – Harrison Barnes often talks about the time when he was completely in awe when former National Basketball Association guard B.J. Armstrong paid a visit to the Boys & Girls Club in Iowa which Barnes attended.

Armstrong meticulously signed some autographs, took some pictures and, quite frankly, left an indelible impression on Barnes and his fellow Boys & Girls Club comrades that will last a lifetime.

Fast forward approximately 18 years later, and Barnes now finds himself as the famous NBA player who’s leaving indelible impressions that will last a lifetime. That’s what occurred recently when the Dallas Mavericks’ forward dedicated a brand new basketball court at the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club.

This was one of those teachable pay-it-forward moments by Barnes, who recalls how that appearance by Armstrong changed his perspective on life.

“I always remember the people that were older than me, were accomplished and always gave back, and that set with me,” Barnes said. “It was, ‘Ok, if I ever make it, or if I ever have a chance to have the means to give back, then I could be able to do that.’ “

“And I think that’s how it’s come full circle – those people raised their hands up and helped me get to where I am, and now I can do the same thing for the next generation.”

Besides the Court Dedication ceremony where Barnes’ good deeds were amplified, the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club was transformed into what was sufficiently described as “Harrison’s Workshop.” It became a place where the kids displayed their arts and crafts, baking and decorating skills.

In addition, the major prize(s) – other than the new basketball court – was that all 150 kids received a Christmas present, with Barnes footing the bill. And it was a present that the kids themselves put on their wish-list.

Following the wishes of Barnes, Cherri Rowe and three other Boys & Girls Club executives went shopping for the gifts.

“We went to Target and we shopped about three hours,” said Rowe, the vice-president of programs for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas. “But honestly it was so much fun, the time went by so fast and we were excited to just get these gifts for the kids.”

“We had the kids make a wish-list and we were able to get every single item that was on their wish-list.”

All 11-year old Kiera Green wanted was a mini-hockey machine. And she got one.

“This is a great Christmas for me,” Green said. “I like that I can play it against people and play it with my family.”

“I want to say thank you for choosing this club and we had a great time. (My friends) said they love their presents.”

Ci’Andria Jefferson, the director of the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club, was very appreciative of the kindness Barnes displayed during this holiday season.

“This has been an amazing experience for our entire club,” Jefferson said. “For the kids to actually have someone care enough about them and know that they’re good kids and that they’re hard workers and that their environment doesn’t dictate who they are and what they can become, this has just been overwhelmingly exciting.”

One room at the Boys & Girls Club was packed with toys, and it was a surreal moment for Barnes.

“Just to be able to see the excitement on these kids’ faces, to come back and to give these guys a gym, I know how important it was for me to have a gym growing up, especially at the Boys and Girls Club,” Barnes said. “Hopefully this will be a great stepping stone for them, not only just to see a nice court to go out and play on, but to see that somebody cares about them.”

Santa Claus cares about kids, too, and was on hand to assist Barnes.

“It’s always a joy to come out and put smiles on kids’ face and watch them come and grab gifts,” said Santa Claus, who grew up in the West Dallas Boys & Girls Club. “On a rating from 1 to 10, it’s an 11 for me.”

“Some of these kids come from a rough past, and just to be able to put a smile on their face for just five seconds, that’s all I need right there.”

Barnes’ wife, Brittany Barnes, also attended the event and offered some encouraging words.

“Any opportunity to give back through the holidays is always a blessing,” Brittany Barnes said. “And since we’ve been so blessed with the ability to give back to the community, give back to kids, and give back to places like the Boys and Girls Club, that means a lot to Harrison.”

“We’re happy to be able to provide an assortment of things for the kids.”

An assortment of things and memories that will last a lifetime.

“I’m overwhelmed with excitement, overwhelmed with joy, overwhelmed with thanks,” Jefferson said. “This is a little community that needs to see this type of love.”

“It blows my mind and I really honestly cannot thank God enough for (Harrison and Brittany Barnes) and the hearts that they have. I’m going to cry. This has been a blessing for me, the club and the families.”

Harrison Barnes Donates Protective Gear to Dallas ISD Basketball Teams

DALLAS – Some bad experiences on the basketball court was one of the reasons Harrison Barnes wanted to engage in a teachable moment with athletes from the Dallas Independent School District.

Earlier this month, Barnes visited Dallas Lincoln High School and shared with members of the boys and girls basketball teams the virtues of wearing a mouthguard while playing in a basketball game. It was one of those ‘been there done that and paid a heavy price for not wearing the mouthguard’ moments for Barnes.

“I’ve had my nose broken and some teeth chipped while I was in the NBA because I didn’t wear a mouthpiece,” Barnes said. “Now that I wear a mouthpiece, now that I wear protective gear, it helps, just because you’re going in the paint, you’re rebounding and elbows are flying.”

“If you get hit in the face now, you feel it a little bit. But now it’s not nearly as bad.”

Barnes teamed up with Shock Doctor and McDavid to donate a Super Fit basketball mouthguard, an NBA-branded mouthguard, a McDavid HEX shooter sleeve and a pair of McDavid HEX leg sleeves to all 15 players on Lincoln’s boys basketball team, and all 15 players on Lincoln’s girls basketball team – along with nine other Dallas ISD high schools: Adamson, Madison, Molina, Pinkston, Roosevelt, Samuel, South Oak Cliff, Spruce and Sunset high schools.

Between the 10 DISD schools, they will be rewarded with 600 mouthguards, 300 shooter sleeves and 300 leg sleeves.

LaJeanna Howard, the girls basketball coach at Lincoln, is grateful for the kind gesture that Barnes bestowed upon her team.

“Harrison Barnes and the Dallas Mavericks giving us protective equipment that’s truly necessary is an awesome experience for the kids to be able to witness and be a part of,” Howard said. “The kids don’t understand as well as the adults do how important having protective equipment is and having things that they will need. So we’re very thankful for Harrison in choosing Lincoln to be part of this movement.”

Lincoln’s boys basketball coach, Cedric Patterson, said the complimentary equipment is something he and his players will truly treasure.

“I want to thank the Mavericks and Harrison Barnes for coming out and donating the mouthpieces and the other equipment for our guys and our young ladies,” Patterson said. “And also just coming out and speaking to them. That’s important to them, so I want to thank Harrison and the Mavericks. It’s a good thing for Lincoln High School because it brings good publicity to our school and our basketball program, and I love it.”

Actually, it was a total surprise to the basketball players at Lincoln that Barnes was going to show up at their South Dallas school and present them with the protective gear. So they were all in awe when he walked through the doors as they were assembled on their basketball court.

“As an NBA player and just as somebody in the community, I think it’s good for kids to see you just so you can talk to them,” Barnes said. “You can actually speak life to them and say, ‘Look, this is how I made it, this is my experience, here’s some things you should do and here’s some things you shouldn’t do,’ and go from there.”

Kennedy Taylor, a senior guard on Lincoln’s boys basketball team, said he’ll cherish the valuable advice Barnes shared with the Lincoln basketball players. He is also giddy about receiving the equipment.

“I just want to thank the Dallas Mavericks, Harrison Barnes, Shock Doctor and McDavid,” said Taylor, who has verbally committed to play for Texas State University. “You need a mouthpiece to protect your mouth so you won’t get busted lips, and you need the arm sleeve.”

Kennedy Milton, a senior guard on Lincoln’s girls basketball team, also expressed gratitude for the gifts that were presented to the Lincoln basketball players.

“We always get out on the court and we always need protection, and I’m very appreciative of this kind gesture from McDavid, Shock Doctor and the Dallas Mavericks,” said Milton, who has verbally committed to attend Oral Roberts University. “It was a great honor.”

Raymond Williams, the brand manager for Shock Doctor and McDavid USA, said he spent the past two NBA offseasons devising a plan to get Barnes involved with his products.

“We had floated the idea by Harrison because we knew (in the summer of 2016) he was new to the city,” Williams said. “This was a way to get him involved in the city in his first one to two years. Harrison was on board for it and we were extremely excited for it.”

Still, associating a mouthguard with basketball, Williams admits, is not a natural thing.

“We’re actually trying to get products in front of kids and be able to speak about it,” Williams said. “I think the thing we’ve struggled with in the past is when kids think mouthguard, they think football. I think with technology and being able to show them a product, present it, get it in their mouth and let them play with it, it’ll change their perspective on what mouthguards can do for you.”

In other words, Barnes is hopeful the knowledge he shared with the Lincoln players about using protective gear will impact their lives in a positive way.

“Most people believe a mouthguard is cumbersome and it’ll just throw you off your game,” Barnes said. “But the best ability is availability. You hate to miss a game because of a chipped tooth or a missed tooth or a bone bruise.”

All chipped teeth and bone bruises aside, Barnes is aware of how beneficial it is for him to make appearances at various inner-city schools.

“It’s huge to come out here and talk to these kids about protection, just in terms of taking care of your mouth and taking care of your body from the bumps and bruises,” Barnes said. “More importantly than that, I think it’s great to come out here and just let the kids see pro players interact in their community, and coming out and supporting them and hanging out with them and talking to them and giving them words of encouragement.”

The new and improving Harrison Barnes

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Standing at his locker after a game in which he scored a season-high 25 points, Harrison Barnes had no interest in talking about what he did right. He was only focused on what he didn’t do at all.

“It was nice to make some shots,” he said, “but at the same time I didn’t get to the free throw line. There has to be balance.”

Barnes entered Saturday night’s game against Philadelphia shooting just 5 of 23 from beyond the arc. A few days earlier, he would’ve told you it’s something he’s got to work on. But hitting 7 of 12 against the Sixers to lift his season shooting clip to 34.3 percent didn’t represent the solution to a problem. Instead, he turned his attention to the fact that, for the first time all season, he didn’t attempt a free throw.

The six-year pro is beginning only his second season as a primary focal point within an offense. Not only is he learning how to be The Guy, but he’s also playing power forward more often than ever while still getting comfortable playing next to Dirk Nowitzki, who he played with in only 52 games last season. Oh yeah, and he’s the 19-year-old rookie point guard’s security blanket. That’s a lot of responsibility for one player, especially one who still has so far to go in his own development.

I’m just a guy sitting at a desk writing this article, so I’m really in no position to cross-examine a pro basketball player’s personality. It’s tricky to maintain a comfortable distance from the psychology of a perfectionist’s self-assessment, but when talking about Barnes’ development it’s an integral piece to the puzzle. The 25-year-old is up-front about his shortcomings. He’s described his own ball-handling ability as a major weakness — “It’s almost been a label that I’ve carried for years, the fact that I can’t dribble the ball,” he went so far as to say in his diary for Mavs.com — and he’s since moved the goal posts to the 3-point line, the defensive glass, and, most recently, the free throw line.

Highlights: Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes scores 25 points and four rebounds in the Mavericks loss to the Sixers.

Pro athletes aren’t commonly so open about their own weaknesses, which is perfectly fine. It’s uncomfortable to admit you’re not great at something. Barnes is a smart guy, though, so he might be aware of stats like this one: Of the 43 players last season who attempted at least 10 2-point shots per game, only three players attempted fewer free throws per 36 minutes than Barnes. The only player who averaged at least 19 points per game to take fewer free throws per game in 2016-17 was Klay Thompson, who barely ever attacks the basket.

“It was an emphasis for him this summer, something we talked about after the season last year as being an area where he can make real progress because of his improved ability to drive the ball,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “With his mid-range shooting and 3-point shooting as good as it was last year, people were coming out on him, and he’s got to make that vertical attack and make people pay.”

Simply put, Barnes realizes he needs to shoot more free throws, and the best way to do that is to make one move and go.

“Sometimes I feel like we over-pass, we over-think, we try to make too much of the ‘right plays,'” he said. “Sometimes the right play is just being aggressive, whatever your matchup is, whenever you have the ball.”

Part of what made what he said after that Sixers game resonate so much was the fact that Barnes has indeed done a much better job of getting to the basket this season, especially as it relates to drawing fouls. He’s attempted nine-plus free throws in three different games already this season, nearly matching his total of four all of last season. After attempting just 3.2 free throws per 100 possessions in 2015-16, he improved to 5.2 in 2016-17 and was sitting at 7.2 this year as of Monday. That’s real progress in a short period of time.

It’s especially notable this season after a subtle shift this offseason in rule interpretation. Officials are now granting fewer continuation whistles on drives to the basket — a player must already have gathered the ball and be on his way up for the shot in order for the foul to be considered a shooting foul, whereas in the past he only need to establish momentum toward the basket and could still be without complete control of the ball. The goal is to quicken games and reduce the amount of free throws given to players like James Harden, who’s mastered drawing contact well before he rises for the shot. Barnes’ increase in attempts, then, tells you that he’s drawing the right kind of contact.

Barnes Finishes Through Contact

Harrison Barnes drives past his defender and muscles through a jump ball tie up attempt to finish with a floater plus the foul.

“There’s just been a greater emphasis on eliminating the touch fouls,” Carlisle said. “You’re seeing a lot of fouls before the shot, so there aren’t people marching to the free throw line the way they were.

“To average 9 in the first two games, that was a big feat,” he added. “I don’t know if 9 a game is a realistic possibility, but I do know he’s gonna stay aggressive.”

Before you get to the line, though, you’ve got to get the ball. Last season it wasn’t easy for the Mavs to get the ball to Barnes early in the shot clock because for a majority of the time there was only one true ball-handler on the floor. When Dallas would grab a rebound, the player would have to collect the ball, locate the point guard, send him the outlet pass, and lumber down the floor to get into the play. Sometimes that whole process can take 10 or 15 seconds, which gives the defense plenty of time to get set.

This season, however, Carlisle has taken the reins off and is encouraging wings to attack the glass and bring the ball up themselves. That saves the Mavericks a few seconds and allows Barnes to gain a full head of steam heading down the court, where he can attack an unbalanced defense relatively unimpeded.

“With our guards and the ability to push it to Dennis and he can attack … it allows us to get into the offense quicker instead of every time finding the guard, going down, getting into the set offense,” Barnes said. “You lose that kind of momentum from the stop.”

In 2016-17 Barnes was able to make hay driving the lane against bigger power forwards but sometimes struggled to shake off similarly sized defenders, resulting in dreaded long 2s. A summer’s worth of early-morning ball-handling drills at the practice facility has given Barnes more confidence and competence with his dribble game, though, which has allowed him to beat smaller, quicker guys to the basket — benefiting him not only in transition, but within the halfcourt as well.

The results are undeniable: Barnes has driven the ball to the rim 7.9 times per game this season, per SportVU, up from 4.0 drives per game in 2016-17. It’s been only seven games, but the early returns are encouraging. It’s also opened up the passing game for him to a degree. He’s currently at 1.9 per game, up from 1.5 last season. He’s had just one dime in his last two games combined, though, which I’m sure he’s aware of.

“If your best player can also be a playmaker, it’s a great advantage,” Carlisle said. “At 4 or at 3, having a guy like him with that kind of strength, first step, long-range shooting ability, mid-range shooting ability, finishing ability at the rim, it just makes him a more potent weapon and it makes him more valuable to our team.”

It’s not easy to score 20 points in an NBA game, and it’s even harder to do it efficiently. Moreover, it’s impossible for a player who didn’t light the league on fire throughout his rookie contract to later on develop into a go-to guy. Barnes has happily accepted that challenge, however, putting in countless hours working on the most fundamental concepts in the game — things like rhythmic dribbling around cones at 6 a.m. and literally shooting layups for 20 minutes after a team practice.

To steal one of his phrases, he’s embarked on a quest to discover his “right play,” and it seems like he’s found it. Now it’s all about doing whatever he can, day after day, to drill into his conscience what he’s got to do in order to make the right play without thinking 25 times per night, no exceptions. It’s great if he hits 3s, but not if he doesn’t shoot a free throw. If he shoots nine of those, it doesn’t mean anything if he doesn’t hand out three assists. He’s his own harshest critic, but he’s approached the impossible mission in front of him with the belief that he can accomplish it.

“As long as I can try to continue to find ways to challenge myself, that will prevent me from plateauing,” he said.

If you watched Barnes play for Golden State and pay attention to his game now, you’ll likely marvel at how far he’s come. But if you ask him about it, he’ll tell you how much further he can still go.