The way Matt Barnes’ body is wrapped in ice, you might think he just finished playing football or had been in a mixed-martial-arts battle. He attributes the shots he’s taken to his torso to random misfortune, not breaking down physically as the oldest player on the roster.
“I don’t even think it’s getting old,” Barnes said of the blows that left him grimacing on the court. “It’s just bad luck. I keep catching elbows for some reason but I’m all right.”
First it was an elbow to the ribs in the preseason. On Saturday night, he caught one to the sternum.
There would be no complaining from the oldest King, who at 36 years old is quickly becoming the heartbeat of the team after an inspired outing helped the Kings overcome an 18-point deficit to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-103 at Golden 1 Center.
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It was the first win at home for the Kings this season before starting a five-game trip Monday in Atlanta.
The Kings can hit the road with a win because Barnes helped shake the team out of first-half slumber that put the Kings down 18 in the second quarter.
Barnes had 12 points, nine assists, five rebounds, a steal and a block as he helped organize the Kings (2-1) on both ends of the floor after a rough start. The Timberwolves were scoring at will in the first half, piling up 65 points, and the Kings couldn’t find a flow on offense.
By the end of the night, all the Kings were flying around the court like Barnes. The defense was back and it was Barnes setting up Ty Lawson for a critical 3-pointer to give the Kings a 105-100 lead with 1:10 to play.
“His energy toward the end of the game uplifted the entire team,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said.
Nights like Saturday is a reason Cousins long coveted Barnes as a teammate. Still, Cousins couldn’t help but to poke fun at the Kings’ oldest player.
“His heart, his grit, his toughness, that’s something I think everybody in this locker room can appreciate,” Cousins said. “And even at the age of 45, he still goes out there and looks like one of the young fellas. You’ve got to appreciate a guy like that.”
No Barnes wasn’t signed in the offseason to be the new point guard, but he played for Dave Joerger last season in Memphis, so he knows how to put his teammates in the right spots.
Joerger said there are many ways to measure what Barnes adds to the Kings and it’s not just in the box score.
“He’s such a competitor,” Joerger said. “You might see a couple threes go in but what it takes a real eye to see is the little things that he does, the switching and helping guys get in places on the floor for sets. He did a great job defensively on the ball, off the ball and getting some rebounds.”
Barnes is going to do whatever is required for a win.
“I just plug holes, really,” Barnes said. “It’s a new system for the majority of the guys. Once we get it ... we’re going to be tough. But until then just gotta come in and find my spots where I can help.”
Cousins had 29 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Rudy Gay had 28 points and Ben McLemore scored 13 points off the bench for Sacramento.
Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota (0-2) with 29 points. Zach LaVine scored 21 points.