This week, Matt Barnes officially announced his retirement from the NBA. Barnes’ retirement announcement was his typical defiant self: “Love me or HATE ME, I DID IT MY WAY!” Barnes wasn’t really a good enough player to merit our usual FAQ treatment but his career was unique enough to at least take the time to go through a few bullet points to review his memorable moments:
-Barnes came out of nowhere: Barnes wasn’t the biggest underdog in the world but his story is pretty nice. Barnes went to UCLA and was a four-year player, going from role player in the first two season to a solid starter by his senior year (13.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.5 apg). Even then, he was overshadowed by brighter prospects on the team like Jason Kapono and Dan Gadzuric.
Barnes was taken in the second round of the 2002 draft by Memphis and immediately traded to the Cavs. The Cavs waived Barnes before the season and he ended up playing with the NBDL’s Fayetteville Patriots. Barnes didn’t look like a future NBA player in the D-League (9.7 ppg, .389 FG%, 3.3 rpg in 18.6 MPG) but he kept on trying. He played in the ABA for most of 2003-04 and did enough to get a cup of coffee with the Clippers in the second half of 2003-04. Barnes apparently showed enough hustle and promise to keep NBA teams interested in him for the end of the bench. The next two season, Barnes bounced around from Sacramento, to New York, and to Philly before Don Nelson finally gave him a chance to be key reserve for the 2006-07 Warriors at age 26.
-Nellie saw the future: Barnes was no star in Golden State but Nelson saw that Barnes could shoot enough and defend enough to be useful. From 2003 to 2006, Barnes was a very reluctant shooter, especially from three (10-50 from three in 137 games). Nelson told Barnes to shoot threes and Barnes showed no hesitation, going 106-290 (.366%) from three in 2006-07. The Warriors would go on to upset the top seed Mavericks in the playoffs, with Barnes helping check Dirk Nowitzki. From there, Barnes’ NBA rep was solidified and he would continue to be that same versatile stretch forward for another decade.
-The Peak: Barnes was fairly consistent over the ten years that followed but it is fair to say that his peak was 2012-13 as a 32-year old with the Clippers (10.3 ppg, .462 FG%, .342 3FG%, 4.6 rpg, 15.5 PER, 6.3 WS, 3.4 BPM, 2.8 VORP, all career highs in the advanced stats).
-Bouncing around: Barnes played with nine separate franchises in his career, tied for fourth most (with a number of other players). He also had two tours of duty with several teams as well (Clippers, Warriors, and Sacramento). Basketball-Reference pegs his most similar player as Sam Mitchell, another scrappy fringe player, who would go on to make an impact as a key bench player.
–Suspensions/fines galore: Barnes’ career is nice but let’s get to what we all remember…the fights! Of course, the primary incident discussed by most people was the 2015 fight he got into with Derek Fisher, who was dating Barnes’ ex-wife. Barnes was suspended as a result. When he was asked if he regretted the incident he said “not at all.”
The Fisher fight wasn’t an isolated incident for Barnes. Last year, the Sacramento Bee detailed ten fines/suspensions levied against Barnes since 2008. The first incident in 2008 really shows how tough Barnes was. Barnes, who was on Phoenix at the time, ran hard into Rockets guard Rafer Alston’s screen causing a fight and a suspension for both of them. Barnes, as always, was defiant: “We got in a little pushing match and I get suspended for two games? Rafer gets two games and Rafer threw two punches at Steve [Nash]. Basically what they’re saying is you might as well throw two punches because you got the same suspension as someone who threw two punches.”
In 2013, while playing with the Clipps, Barnes was ejected for fighting with Serge Ibaka. While the game was still going on, Barnes tweeted: “I love my teammates like family, but I’m DONE standing up for these XXXX! All this XXXX does is cost me money.. [sic].” After that blast, Barnes did something he never did on or off the court, he apologized to his teammates.