In our Baudrillardian SportsCentric world, God knows you’ll view each Curry lob to Durant from all conceivable and inconceivable camera angles. You’ll gaze deliriously upon every anti-heroic triple-double of an embittered and self-consciously abandoned Russell Westbrook. You’ll curse as Rondo, Wade, and Butler hesitantly pass the ball between themselves for one unconscionably wide-open look from deep after another. Take these as givens.
But what you don’t already know is what Harrison Barnes will do.
Highlight: GM Donnie Nelson cuffs himself to Harrison Barnes.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Witness Donnie Nelson, son of modern smallball’s infamous progenitor, linked at the wrist to new free agent acquisition and NBA Champion Harrison Barnes. It is little secret that the Mavericks have long appeared in need of high-flying, youthful athleticism (consider it equally obvious for now that DeAndre Jordan is a huge bitch). But try as he might, Harrison will never get away from the Mavericks now; what a catch!!
At eighteen, Barnes was the consensus #1 recruit overall; at twenty, he was the #7 pick in the NBA draft. Now at twenty-four, he remains a solidly above-average small forward, the worthy starter for a 73-win team. Slotting in for ex-Mav Chandler Parsons, he will be lengthier, more agile, and genuinely attempt to play defense. He is already Chandler’s equal as a quality streak shooter, particularly from the NBA corners, but three years younger. With less hitch to his shot and eight inches more bounce to his step, he may yet make the leap that Chandler never could.
Most importantly, Harrison Barnes is the prototype of the modern 3-and-D forward, and a true two-way player. In his day, Barnes would have inspired the original Don Nelson to try then-unthinkable lineups, pairing Barnes at the 4 with Bogut or—God forbid—Dirk at the 5, should the Mavericks wish to eschew all rebounds for a thousand generations. More likely, he spends most of his time in the wings alongside his possible future avatar in Wesley Matthews, although with Dallas’ apparent eagerness to play an eight-point guard rotation, he may ultimately play more 4 as the season goes on and Carlisle starts tinkering to rest Dirk’s aging, $20-million-a-year legs. In any event, the Mavs are going all-in on Harrison.
Lowlight: Harrison Barnes cuffs himself to GM Donnie Nelson.And that’s a bit of a problem. With the NBA announcing that the 2016-17 salary cap will be $5 million lower than expected, Dallas is left fielding yet another team of wily, mismatched veterans and overpaid free agents that Carlisle will cleverly exploit to their maximal potential of just-over .500 ball and a hard-fought first-round exit.
Harrison is already a scapegoat in the aftermath of the NBA Finals, and a laughingstock well in advance of the 2016 Zika Games in Brazil. There, he will rub elbows with Klay, Draymond, and Kevin, and in the heat and pressure of such intense closed-doors competition, he may finally acquire the adamantine sparkle of a nascent diamond; he may also shatter on sight, shimmering away under the pressure. There are whispers within the Mavericks organization that Harrison may average twenty points for them as a go-to scorer; it is hard to imagine better than an inconsistent seventeen.
For years, an aging Dirk has willingly sacrificed up to $78.7 million in salary to populate the roster around himself with further talent and remain competitive. Now, the unadulterated weight of this burden falls squarely on Harrison Barnes’ shoulders, who has come to take the mantle from such fire-to-ash stars as O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis, and the still-lingering Deron Williams, who yet remains suspended between death and undeath. With one final roll of the dice, Dallas’ all-too-mortal 38-year-old stretch forward is obliged place all his faith and hope in a 24-year-old who reached twenty points just 6 times in 89 appearances last year, and finished 5-of-32 from the field as the Cavaliers clawed their way back to steal history.
Harrison Barnes could fuck everything up, slowly imploding upon himself like an office building whose designated time has come, the millstone of his contractual expectations dragging him further downward, floor by floor. Or he could develop a purposeful off-the-dribble game with a mean streak; he might take accountability for this squad, and lead the Mavericks by the throat right back into relevance. And that’s why just in case, I’ll be watching every moment.
So whenever you’re ready to read about the most mysterious man in the NBA, I’ll be right here. All Barnes Myself.