It’s no secret that this year’s reunion with the Golden State Warriors was a special one for veteran journeyman Matt Barnes. The cagey defender had only played in the Bay Area for two seasons, but perhaps the most magical of his career as he watched a group of misfits from different teams in the league band together and pull out the unexpected, dethroning the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks in six games in the 2006-07 playoffs.
Barnes, along with many players of that team have held the collective spirit of the “We Believe” season in high regard. The Santa Clara native has played for nine different teams in his 13 years in the league, including reunions with the Sacramento Kings, the L.A. Clippers, and the Warriors, which has been his favorite team to be a part of.
“My favorite team, hands down,” Barnes told Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. “The brotherhood was just unmatched. We were a bunch of Draymond Greens back then, as far as our attitudes. We had five of us out there with that same mentality, and that’s what made it so much fun.”
But the most recent member of this 2016-17 Warriors team, is still hesitant to consider himself part of this playoff ensemble — trying to find his niche within the game.
“I still don’t feel as if I can say ‘we’ because I don’t think I’ve earned the respect to say ‘we,'” said Barnes. “I just want to find my spots and find my way.”
The 6-foot-7 jack-of-all-trades has been every bit the glue guy Golden State expected to have, filling in at small forward in the absence of Kevin Durant and doing the little things as teammates Andre Iguodala and Green often do.
Barnes was an afterthought at the start of the Don Nelson era, a relative roster-filler turned impact player by the end of the season.
“I beat two guaranteed guys out,” Barnes said. “Slowly but surely grinded my way from 12th man to sixth man to starting in the playoffs. Crazy.”
“My flame was burning wild then because I still had so much to prove still. Every game was an audition not just to help my team but for the rest of the league. I knew I didn’t want to find a real job, so to speak.”
Nelly’s small ball philosophy had even generated constant criticism from TNT analyst Charles Barkley from back in the day, a game maneuver that has been fine-tuned by Steve Kerr‘s Warriors during the past three seasons.
“With all due respect to the game, we burned it at both ends,” Barnes said of the 2006-07 Warriors. “But we were always together as a group, whether we were going out to dinner or out to a club or going to Jack’s house to watch film. It was always six, seven, eight, nine of us. There was always a core, so no matter what we did, it was always a group of us doing it. And we knew whenever it was time to play, it was time to play. But we had fun off the court as well.”