Will Barton: "I Need to be Around the Guys"
On the way to being back around his teammates at the head coach’s request after the first basketball surgery of his career, Will Barton realized something immediately:
He needed the team as much as the team needed him.
“I don’t really like being alone,” said Barton in his first comments to media since injuring his hip/core on Oct. 20. “When you’re injured it’s easy for you to go the opposite way because you feel left out and you’re not playing. Me, I need that team camaraderie. I need to be around the guys even though I’m not playing just to let them know I’m still in the fight.
“It’s tough days for me so sometimes I just need to be around them, laughing and joking and taking my mind off of the exact injury. It’s easy for me to get down. I just don’t like not playing basketball.”
Barton said he’s leaned on family and friends to get him through it.
“I’ve got a good support circle of my mom, my brother, my friends – they check on me daily. Some of them are out here (in Denver), just to make sure I’m good and keep my spirits high and to take my mind off of it. Because, they know how much I love to be on the court.”
Barton, the Nuggets starting small forward, hopes the time until his return is shorter rather than longer. But he gave no timeline on his possible return, saying he’d play whenever he was cleared by team doctors and trainers.
He was averaging 16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 57 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from the 3-point line when he went down.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day,” Barton said. “And when it tells me I can go out there and play, you guys will be the first to know.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone has been vocal about insisting Barton’s presence around the team has been a boost.
“I’m just trying to still be a leader, like I was doing when I was playing,” Barton said. “Watching the game, analyzing, trying to tell guys what I see without trying to force it or be petty. Because I know how it is being on the court. … I just try to find a balance within that; speak when I should, and sometimes just let the guys figure it out.”
His thoughts on the Nuggets 9-2 start?
“They are playing great,” Barton said. “Especially on the defensive end. Guys are really getting after it. I feel like we are making strides toward catching our rhythm on offense. There’s things that I see, and I’ll tell the guys or I’ll tell a coach. I’m in constant contact with them about things that I see from the bench.”
Barton touched on a number of other subjects. Here’s what he said:
On Nikola Jokic: He’s not in a slump. He’s not in a slump, he’s just not shooting the ball. I tell him that all the time. With Nikola – and I think we’ve been doing this the last two years – when he has these stretches where he doesn’t shoot. I just try to tell him. And I think I’ve told you guys before, it’s not about his shot attempts. It’s about him being a threat, looking at the rim, looking like he’s being aggressive. Because, shot attempts, that doesn’t mean anything. You can shoot bad shots and you still got up a lot of shot attempts. With him it’s just ‘let me look at the rim.’ Because he’s so versatile, he’s so much of a threat on the court that when he looks at the rim, you have to respect so much that he does. I feel the last couple of games he hasn’t been doing that.
On the Nuggets defense: Guys want to win. When you want to win you know that it comes down to the defensive end. Guy are just buying in and are sick of losing.
On if he expected the Nuggets 9-2 record: Yeah, and we can be better. Our record is exactly where I would like it to be right now. But, as us playing I think we can be much better – and that’s scary.
On Jamal Murray’s 48-point night against Boston: Oh, it was crazy. I’m still mad that he didn’t get 50, but he was in a zone, man. It’s just fun to watch. A guy like me, I get motivated from it. It’s like, ‘dang, he went and did that, maybe I got to try to get. It was inspirational. It makes you want to be better.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter