Matt Barnes is no stranger to controversy. His fiery temperament is as much a part of his game as his ability to knock down a corner three. And his recent squabble with current Knicks coach and former teammate Derek Fisher is a reminder that trouble follows him off the court as well. An enforcer by nature, he’s a paragon of the grit-n-grind ethos of his new team, the Memphis Grizzlies, and a lot of his prior issues have stemmed directly from protecting teammates against would-be in-game altercations.
That’s another way of saying that he’s fiercely loyal, which is why it’s somewhat surprising that he harbors such resentment toward his former coach Doc Rivers. Via Shaun Powell of NBA.com:
“I can’t wait to play against Doc Rivers,” he emphasizes.
Doc never wanted me. He couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Doc and I never saw eye to eye. He tried to get me out of there the second he got there, so it wasn’t too surprising to me what happened when things went south.
Barnes doesn’t go into any specifics, so it’s difficult to pinpoint any one incident that might have led to his distaste for the Clippers coach and G.M. As far as his trade was concerned, there were plenty of basketball-related reasons that could account for Rivers’ rationale, any of which might’ve superseded whatever interpersonal problems may or may not have existed.
If Rivers was opposed to his volatility, then Lance Stephenson certainly wouldn’t have been an upgrade in that department. But Barnes is 35, and if Rivers can help Stephenson establish some stability and regain the form that made him one of the league’s brightest young players during his Pacers days, then he might secure a key piece in their rotation for years to come.
Los Angeles will miss Barnes’ three-point shooting – better than 36 percent last season – but those numbers took a nosedive during the playoffs (26 percent). Paul Pierce – the latest in a long line of Rivers’ retreads and, incredibly, the presumed starter at small forward – should help mitigate that.
Still, it’ll be fascinating to see how Barnes enacts his latest beef with Rivers when the Grizzlies play the Clippers on November 9. The two teams have historically had a pretty heated rivalry, with Blake Griffin being one of Memphis’ favorite targets, and now his former personal bodyguard is playing for the other team.