Barnes’ Relationship With Former Teammates Remains Strong
MEMPHIS – To J.J. Redick, he’s “Bubs.” To Jeff Green, he’s “Ace.” To many, he’s just Matt.
And to all of the veteran Clippers who knew him well, he’s still a friend. That much was obvious on a day Barnes didn’t even play.
At shootaround Saturday, Barnes didn’t know he’d be out later that night. Later in the day, he’d get word he was suspended following an altercation at the end of his previous game against the Bucks.
That meant he was out in the first matchup in Memphis between the Grizzlies and Clippers this season. Before that happened, when the Clippers thought they’d face him that evening, his old Clippers teammates still made it a point to one by one greet Barnes as they entered the arena for shootaround while the Grizzlies were filing off the court and Barnes was taking part in an interview.
First there was Redick yelling “Bubs!”, a nickname he affectionately gives many of his teammates, and shaking Barnes’ hand as the former Clipper got ready to talk to the media.
“It’s going to be fun,” Barnes started out. “I keep in touch with everybody, but when the game starts, they’re the enemy. They know that. That’s just how it goes. After the game, we talk. Before the game, we talk. When it’s time to play, we play.”
That’s basically verbatim what DeAndre Jordan said a day prior, and that attitude is a reason the Clippers appreciated Barnes so much as a teammate, while his opponents who don’t know him tend to loathe him.
For the majority of veterans on the Clippers, a game in Memphis meant seeing four players who were former teammates in Lance Stephenson, who was traded at this year’s deadline for Jeff Green; Alex Stepheson, who was with the Clippers as recently as a week ago; Ryan Hollins, who was with the Clippers two years ago; and, of course, Barnes.
For Jordan, there were five players, as he also had the unique perspective of playing on the Clippers with Zach Randolph years ago.
“Before the game and after the game, we’re like a band of brothers, those are my guys,” Jordan said. “But during the game, I’m sure Matt’s going to foul me hard and cuss me out, and after the game we’re going to talk and that’s my guy. I talk to Matt probably every day and we hang out a lot in the summer.”
Of course, Barnes wouldn’t end up playing.
He didn’t know that as he moved on to discussing the incredible number of injuries the Grizzlies are dealing with – something Barnes said he’s never seen before to this degree – when Chris Paul walked up.
“CP what up,” Barnes blurted out, before realizing Paul, who was video chatting with his son, was bringing his phone over to Barnes.
It wasn’t just Paul and Barnes who developed a friendship in the Paul household. Paul’s son and Barnes’ twin sons, both close in age, became friends during Barnes’ three seasons with the Clippers from 2012-15.
“Chris what up!” Barnes said, this time in reference to Paul’s son on the other end of the phone. “What’s up Lil’ Chris!”
Still in the middle of his interview, Barnes took a second to try to set up the next time Barnes’ kids and Paul’s son would see each other.
Back to the interview, Barnes was answering a question about fighting for playoff position when another familiar face greeted him quite literally with open arms, as Jordan came out of nowhere for a bear hug.
“Those are my guys,” Barnes said. “We started something there. This business causes trades and situations to happen, but like I said, these are guys I hang out with in the summertime.”
There’s a well-documented edge to Barnes’ game. Often, it fires up his team. Occasionally, it can go too far and cause a fine or suspension, as it did Saturday, even though he claims that wasn’t his fault.
According to the NBA, the suspension was a result of Barnes attempting to enter the Bucks’ locker room and “verbally challenging” Bucks forward John Henson following both players’ ejections.
“I went off the court, their door guy led me to the wrong room and everyone started making a big deal about it, and I walked out,” Barnes said.
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s far from the first time Barnes has been punished by the NBA. Any team Barnes goes to knows he takes that reputation with him. But there’s a part of playing with Barnes, a fervently loyal player with endearing qualities, which rubs off positively and carries beyond the court.
There’s a reason, after all, so many Clippers are still thrilled to see him and keep in touch.
“Me and Matt are really close, always will be,” Paul said. “I talk to Matt all the time, after our games, after their games, I talk to Matt all the time.”
And it doesn’t take long to feel that way. If there’s any indication of that, it’s probably what came next.
“ACE!” yelled Green, who only played with Barnes half a season yet already developed a friendship with the small forward.
“Jeffery, what’s happening!” Barnes said back.
Finally, the line of Clippers had ended, even as Barnes’ interview continued.