Matt Barnes is ailing a bit, feeling his age in a young man’s sport.
At 36, the onetime Del Campo High School star checks in as the Kings’ elder statesman. He sometimes feels it, too.
The veteran forward sat out the last four preseason games in an effort to heal for the rigors of a long season that starts Wednesday in Phoenix.
Barnes has been slowed by a knee that crashed into another and by sore ribs. The ribs are courtesy of a wayward elbow from Draymond Green of the Warriors when the teams met Oct. 6. The burly Green has the sort of power with a swinging elbow that seemingly can fell an elephant. That sharp blow to Barnes didn’t drop him, but he winced for a good while.
“I’m fine, just sore, and I’ll be ready for the opener,” Barnes said. “I don’t recover as fast as I used to, but I still feel good. Draymond knocked a few ribs loose. Ribs are bad. Can’t sleep, can’t sneeze, can’t laugh. Ribs are tough.”
Barnes has been fitted for practices with “a vest, like a quarterback flak jacket,” he said.
Barnes said he approaches a game cautiously with his ribs, but he can’t dial down his energy. His active play has kept him in the NBA for 13 seasons. This is his second stint with the Kings. He was brought in for toughness, versatility and experience.
“The Kings needed a guy like Matt Barnes,” longtime Kings TV analyst Jerry Reynolds said. “Every team needs a guy like that.”
Said Kings coach Dave Joerger: “We need his leadership, his mindset, his toughness. That’s always contagious. He’s been nicked up, but he went live (Sunday) to give the body a test. It’s been a tough situation here the last couple of years. Matt has roots here. He wants to see it be successful here again. (Acquiring Barnes) was a good get for us.”
Barnes has been active in practice with shooting drills.
“I want to be out there, getting acclimated with my teammates,” Barnes said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I tried to practice last week and got hit in the ribs and thought I was going to die. My job is to be ready for the first game.”
The Kings will cut two players Monday.
“It’s part of the business that’s not enjoyable because guys are working hard,” Joerger said. “We pretty much had a full roster anyway, but it’s still not enjoyable making cuts.”
Joerger said that although practice time is needed, the Kings are eager for the season to start.
“Two weeks from now, I might be yelling that we need more practice time,” Joerger said with a laugh. “But (practice) gets stale. Let’s have some games and see someone else.”