Harrison Barnes had a less-than-auspicious start to his career in Dallas. In the Mavericks’ first home preseason game, Barnes, the Mavs’ new $94 million man, connected on just one of 10 shots and finished with a measly three points in one half of play. It’s only one preseason game, and three starters sat out, so putting much stock in his performance isn’t wise. However, it does harken back to memories of the NBA Finals in June when Barnes missed a number of shots as the Golden State Warriors ceded a 3-1 series lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Unfortunately, the memories of his performance in the Finals will continue to haunt Barnes. But that’s to be expected especially when he was rewarded with a large, albeit market value, contract. The spotlight is clearly on him this season. I feel like a broken record repeating this all again but it will continue to be a major storyline until Barnes proves he can be a consistent contributor. Nonetheless, he’ll be a starter for the Mavs and head coach Rick Carlisle has confidence in him.
“I loved the shots that he got tonight,” Carlisle said of Barnes after Dallas’ 95-88 preseason home opener win over the Charlotte Hornets. “He’s going to make those shots. The important thing is just sticking with the process. Right now we’re only playing these guys a half. As we go along, he’ll be out there more. But I’m really encouraged by the looks that he’s getting and he’s got to keep stepping into them.”
The Mavericks didn’t bring in Barnes to be a timid player. They expect him to perform at a high level and improve his game beyond what it was with the Warriors. He’s the team’s starting small forward and will play a significant number of minutes this season. That becomes even more apparent when you look behind him on the roster.
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The primary backups for Barnes at the wing will be Justin Anderson and Nicolas Brussino. Fans will remember Anderson, who is listed as a guard but frequently plays the 3, from last season. He earned minutes late in the season, as the Mavs were making a playoff push, with his up-tempo play and highlight reel shot blocks. This season, more will be expected from him.
Though it was just one game -- I didn’t see Dallas’ first preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans in Shreveport -- it looks as though Anderson has added a few new offensive wrinkles to his game. As he continues to improve, his role with the team will increase.
Brussino, on the other hand, is less well-known. Before joining the Mavericks, he played professionally in Argentina. At 6’7”, he has the makings of a point forward with decent ball handling and shooting ability. He’ll get the opportunity to prove himself during the preseason and has looked okay in a small sample size. At this point, I’m not sure how much playing time he’ll receive once the regular season rolls around.
With Carlisle partial to two-guard lineups, it’s likely that Wesley Matthews will slide over to small forward at times, especially in situations that shift Barnes to power forward. But it’s Barnes that’s the alpha and omega at the wing. I doubt he feels like Atlas, but for better or worse, that’s the burden that the fans will place on him. They’ll crow about every poor shooting performance and on-court gaff. Barnes has to step up in order to escape his ghosts.