Over the past several years, the Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies have become rivals, their games filled with tough, physical, chippy play.
So when the Clippers’ roughest player, Matt Barnes, ended up being sent to the Grizzlies over the summer, he knew he’d have some reconciliation to do.
“I realize that I’m one of those guys that if I’m not with you, you hate me,” Barnes said at a news conference with the Grizzlies on Tuesday. “But when I’m with you, you’ll understand who I am and what I’m about and you’ll love me. I’m looking forward to winning this crowd and winning the city over.”
Barnes recently estimated to Sports Illustrated that he’s paid $500,000 in fines over the course of his 12-season career, and is notable for such instances as pretending to throw a ball at Kobe Bryant’s face in 2010 (Bryant didn’t even flinch), kicking a water bottle into the stands in 2014, cursing at Suns’ owner Robert Sarver in 2015 and trash-talking to James Harden’s mother during the 2015 playoffs.
A member of the Grizzlies media asked Barnes about the time that he kicked over a trash can at FedEx Forum after the Clippers lost to the Grizzlies during a first-round playoff game in 2013, scattering nachos and hot dogs everywhere. Barnes said he heard a young woman say something about the game, and he lost it.
“I play with my emotions on my sleeve, on my chest, the whole time,” he said. “It was a close game and I was mad that we lost, and I just kicked the can. I’m looking forward to inviting that young lady back to the game for the first home game and getting a chance to meet her and letting her know that I’m not the guy she thought I was when I kicked the can.”
The Grizzlies acquired Barnes from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Luke Ridnour in late June. The Clippers had traded Barnes, along with Spencer Hawes, to the Hornets earlier in June in exchange for Lance Stephenson.
The 35-year-old had a successful season with the Clippers in 2014-15, averaging 10.1 points on 44.4% shooting, four rebounds, 1.5 assists and a career-high 29.9 minutes a game. He also shot 36.2% from beyond the three-point line.
“Not totally surprised,” Barnes said of being traded by the Clippers. “I was surprised that it was like the first trade of free agency.”
The Clippers and the Grizzlies have met twice in the playoffs over the past four seasons, with the Clippers knocking the Grizzlies out of the first round in 2012 and the Grizzlies eliminating the Clippers in the first round in 2013.
“The series the past two or three or four years have been well documented that the teams don’t like each other,” Barnes said. “So basically coming from the enemy, now and they’re the enemy, my kids are a little confused still. I have twin boys; they’re just like, ‘Daddy, so do you not like DeAndre [Jordan] and Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin] no more?’ I’m like, ‘No they’re still my friends, but they’re my enemy when the ball goes up.’ ... For 48 minutes, my only friends are my teammates.”
Barnes said he teased Jordan earlier this month on his 27th birthday, saying he’d better watch out when the Grizzlies play the Clippers next season.
“I told him even though we’re good friends, I’m still going to foul the beep out of you when we play,” he said.
Barnes said he always looked forward to playing the Grizzlies when he was with the Clippers. He said he thinks he will be a great fit for the Grizzlies because both he and the team share a rough-and-tumble mentality.
“This is a whole not just team, but city, with my ideal, my grind mentality,” Barnes said. “I’ve been on teams that run and gun, and dunk, and shoot a lot of threes, but I’ve never been on a team that everyone has the same mindset that I do. That’s very exciting from a player standpoint."