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Former King Matt Barnes enjoys chance to ‘stick it’ to doubters as an NBA champion

Matt Barnes reflects on what it means to win a championship

Matt Barnes, former Sacramento Kings player and Del Campo High School star, finds redemption after helping the Golden State Warriors win the NBA title.
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Matt Barnes, former Sacramento Kings player and Del Campo High School star, finds redemption after helping the Golden State Warriors win the NBA title.

Matt Barnes knows there are plenty of people with a low opinion of him, the kind who use his personal life as heckling material.

None of that mattered to the former Del Campo High School star Monday night in a locker room that was overpowered by the aroma of celebratory champagne. That’s because Barnes was finally part of an NBA championship team with the Golden State Warriors after they clinched the title in five games over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The outside drama, whether it be a nightclub incident last December while still a King, being waived by Sacramento in February or the taunts that often cross the line and become overly personal, meant nothing Monday night.

Barnes had his sons with him. If you know Barnes, you know that’s the most important thing to him.

“There’s really no words, but a lot of people want to see me fail and after 15 years I’ve succeeded,” Barnes said. “This is a good way to stick it to everybody who wants to see the worst and thank everybody who’s always been behind me.”

When the final buzzer sounded, Barnes wasn’t sure what to do and found himself in an unusual state of mind.

“I think I froze,” Barnes said. “For the first time in my life I was nervous and I really don’t get nervous for nothing. I’m still kind of stunned a little bit. I don’t think it’s hit me.”

For Barnes, 37, being a part of the championship team seemed improbable in October, when he was a King, added to provide a veteran edge to a team that has now missed the playoffs for 11 consecutive seasons.

It bugged Barnes that his chance to end the Kings’ postseason drought ended when DeMarcus Cousins was traded, which coincided with his release.

The Kings were 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot at the time and Barnes was a big reason the Kings were overachieving at that point, largely due to his intangibles and increased role due to Rudy Gay’s Achilles’ tendon injury.

The feeling was management gave up on a team that was on the cusp of ending the playoff drought.

But it couldn’t have ended any better for him after he landed with the Warriors in the wake of Kevin Durant’s injury.

“Fifteen years of grinding,” Barnes said. “So many ups and downs. I started my season in Sacramento and to finish it a champion in Golden State, I couldn’t imagine it.”

Before Barnes signed with the Kings, he had his eyes on a return to the Warriors, where he was a part of the “We Believe” team a decade earlier. He said winning a championship wasn’t just for him, but for his teammates from that team which upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs.

“This is for all of them,” Barnes said. “This is the last place my mom saw me play before she died so it’s great to be back. I started my season in Sacramento and I ended up a champion in Golden State so it’s been a helluva season.”

Barnes has no plans to retire. He’s feeling inspired to keep playing, hopefully for the Warriors next season. Barnes helped fill in when Durant was out during the regular season, but played sparingly in the postseason after missing the first round series against Portland with a foot and ankle sprain.

Barnes said he’s motivated to return next season healthy and pursue another title.

But before he gets to that, there’s a championship to celebrate.

“I’m going to hang out and enjoy it, take my kids on vacation,” Barnes said. “Take about a week off then I’ve got to get back to work because you know I’m old, I can’t take too much time off because I’ll be fat and slow.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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