For Matt Barnes, it was less a whodunit than a matter of who it was directed toward.
But an NBA official said Wednesday the league had fined Barnes $25,000 the previous day for directing inappropriate language at a spectator other than Sarver. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss league disciplinary matters.
Barnes told reporters Wednesday he thought the fine resulted from an exchange with Sarver that Barnes said started when the owner said something to Barnes.
“When an owner says something derogatory to me and I respond, I thought it would stay there,” Barnes said. “It’s a grown man saying something to another grown man. I’m not going to tell. But the fact that he told or someone around him told, it’s crazy.”
What did Sarver say to Barnes?
“You can ask him what he said,” Barnes said. “He said enough to make me respond to him.”
Barnes said he believed team owners should be held to a higher standard than players when it came to the way they conducted themselves. The 12-year veteran said there was mutual dislike between himself and Sarver going back to when Barnes played for the Suns during the 2008-09 season.
“We don’t like each other,” Barnes said. “He didn’t like me when I was there, I didn’t like him when I was there. He’s said some stuff about me before that a few of my old teammates that were there that played with me on the Clippers told me about, so I’ve never liked him and as soon as he said that to me, it kind of got me going.”
Barnes said his exchange with Sarver was precipitated by more good-natured chatter with a teenage boy and his father and two men seated behind them who referenced Barnes’ $25,000 fine in December for kicking a cup and directing obscene language at fans during a game against the Washington Wizards.
“They were just heckling me the whole game and I was laughing and messing with them,” Barnes said. “And I had a bad game shooting, so they were just on me. And I said something to the little boy because someone said, ‘Oh, you were fined $25,000,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, that was a lot of money, huh?’ and he smiled at me and then the owner said what he said and I responded.”
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said his players needed to ignore comments made by fans during games.
“You’ve just got to take it and keep playing,” Rivers said.
But should owners be allowed to taunt players?
“Most don’t, so it’s not a big issue,” Rivers said. “Some do and you know who they are.”
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch