When the Kings waived Matt Barnes on Feb. 20, Golden State stars Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were among those who reached out to him.
Now they will be teammates. The Warriors will add Barnes to their roster this week after Durant suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise in his left knee Tuesday. Durant will be re-evaluated in four weeks, and there is no timetable for his return.
Barnes posted a text exchange with former Warriors teammate Stephen Jackson saying he would “get to finish what we started.” Both were part of the “We Believe” Warriors who upset top-seeded Dallas in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
Barnes leaves the Kings with unfinished business. He wasn’t planning to be a Warrior. But when the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to New Orleans for three players, someone had to go, and Barnes figured it might be him.
“Just overall very surprised, one, because they were very adamant they weren’t going to trade (Cousins),” Barnes said. “And then to hear he gets traded on the news, and in the back of my head I’m thinking if he’s gone, they might get rid of me because it seems like they’re going to rebuild. Shoot, lo and behold, the next morning it happens.
“It was frustrating because being back home and really taking pride in trying to put that team back on the map, and then just in a day’s time you’re no longer a part of the organization. So it was kind of a rude awakening.”
Barnes had been everything the Kings had hoped for in the locker room and on the court, and in February, they were playing their best ball this season before the trade. He was averaging 7.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists, and the Kings were 1 1/2 games out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
“I think we as a team and talking to coach (Dave) Joerger, we felt like we had turned the corner,” Barnes said. “Obviously we weren’t all the way there, but we won four of our last five games (before the All-Star break) and despite the injuries, guys had stepped up and were playing well. It kind of really seemed like we really figured out what coach had tried to install with us.”
When the Kings cut Barnes, it was assumed the move was not just about a roster spot, that it also related to a Kings press release that said “character” mattered in winning.
Barnes and Cousins were involved in a nightclub altercation in New York City in December. Barnes was issued a desk appearance ticket for misdemeanor assault last month. Cousins does not face any charges.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac said waiving Barnes was about “going in a different direction” and playing young players, not about any character issues.
“I have respect for Matt,” Divac said. “He was good in the locker room. ... He was very, very good for us this year in keeping the locker room together.”
Still, Barnes heard talk in the media that he was volatile and had to go because removing him and Cousins was necessary to fix the team’s culture. That contradicts what Joerger and Barnes’ teammates would say about him.
The day Barnes was waived, Kings guard Garrett Temple tweeted Barnes was “Top 3 best teammates I’ve had.”
“In this day and age, people just want to jump on the bandwagon,” Barnes said. “It’s not about being right. It’s about being first, and people want to put something out there whether it’s true or not or whether it can affect my future or not. They don’t really care. It’s just the world we live in. I’ve learned to accept it even though it’s very frustrating at times when people think I’m a monster, that I do no good and I’m a terrible teammate when it’s the exact opposite.”
Barnes said in addition to NBA players such as Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, James Harden and Trevor Ariza contacting him, the Kings have been supportive since his release.
“When I tell you every single person on that team texted me, the equipment managers texted me, the trainers texted me, the weight coaches texted me, some of the secretaries texted me,” Barnes said, “it just kind of made me realize that even though it was short-lived, I did do a good job and I was appreciated in some facets.”