CLIPPERS

Clippers' Matt Barnes has been motivated by doubters

Matt Barnes: '... what keeps you going is everyone who says you can't. And they don't say it that nice'

Matt Barnes always prepares for games the same way. He goes through warmups, gets treatment from the Clippers training staff and logs onto Twitter.

The last part of his routine provides motivation from those who doubt the small forward. Some of the jabs trigger a laugh. Others prompt a response. All have spurred Barnes toward what might be the best season of the journeyman's career.

"You always appreciate the people that love and support you during the journey because it's been a hell of a journey," Barnes said Saturday, "but what keeps you going is everyone who says you can't. And they don't say it that nice. They say it a lot meaner than that."

Those searching for nasty remarks have had to get creative lately. Barnes has gone from a nightmarish off-season that included a divorce to a horrid preseason in which he made one of 18 three-pointers to shooting a career-best 36.7% from three-point range during the regular season.

He's also played lockdown defense and become a spirited leader for a team that could finish as high as second place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

"This has been a year that I kind of just could have gave away," said Barnes, who is also averaging double figures in scoring for only the third time in his career. "I'm 13 years in and at my age and having a rough start, I could have just disappeared and that would have been it. But I believed in myself and my teammates stuck with me. It's just a tribute to hard work."

Barnes' dual persona as someone loathed by opponents and loved by teammates was featured this week in a lengthy Sports Illustrated profile. In the story, Barnes talked about the expectations of pro athletes to suck it up and play through personal problems.

Barnes acknowledged having trouble focusing after his divorce this summer from Gloria Govan after less than two years of marriage.

"You have two hurt ex-husband and wives acting out in public and then there's kids involved," Barnes said. "It was a mess."

Barnes also engaged in a very public spat with Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver in January during a game at US Airways Center. According to the SI story, Barnes said he was casually chatting with fans when Sarver told him, "Shut the … up, don't talk to my fans. Didn't you learn your lesson? You were just fined $25,000."

Barnes told the magazine he shot back to Sarver, his former boss, "You say another … word, I'll …" Barnes was fined an additional $25,000 for that exchange, the same amount he had paid for a previous incident in Washington.

The Clippers play their final regular-season game Tuesday in Phoenix, but Barnes said he's focused on playoff seedings, not Sarver.

"I don't like him," Barnes said Saturday. "I don't care how he feels about me."

That might not be entirely true. Barnes would probably prefer the extra motivation.

Etc.

Barring injury, it appears Clippers point guard Chris Paul will play in all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his 10 NBA seasons. Coach Doc Rivers said he would leave the decision whether to rest in one of the final two games of the season up to his players. Did Paul feel he needed to rest? "I'm cool," Paul said Saturday night before turning toward his son, Little Chris. "I'll rest [Sunday], right?" … Rivers has determined the most favorable matchup for the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. "There's one I really like," Rivers said. "Let's play Kentucky."

CLIPPERS VS. DENVER

When: 7:30 PDT Monday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.

Records: Nuggets 30-50, Clippers 54-26.

Record vs. Nuggets: 2-1.

Update: The Clippers need a victory to sustain any hope of obtaining the No. 2 seeding in the Western Conference playoffs. They beat the Nuggets, 107-92, on April 4 in Denver, but the Nuggets were without Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, not to mention Jameer Nelson after Nelson left the game because of a strained hip flexor.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
97°