Matt Barnes returned to Staples Center on Monday, and there was a lingering story line involving a former teammate who also once called the arena home.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or any of Barnes’ other pals from his three seasons with the Clippers.
The Memphis Grizzlies small forward appeared to be annoyed by former Lakers teammate Derek Fisher more than a month after an incident involving the men at the Southern California home of Barnes’ former wife, Gloria Govan.
Barnes said he drove from his new home in Marina del Rey to his old home nearby in early October to check on his twin sons, who seemed concerned at a time when Fisher was there visiting their mother. An altercation ensued between Barnes and Fisher, who now coaches the New York Knicks.
“We’re two grown men who should have handled grown men’s business,” Barnes said after the Grizzlies’ shootaround Monday, “but he wanted to run and tell the cops and tell the NBA, so now it’s everywhere.”
Fisher has declined to comment about the incident in interviews with the New York media, calling it a personal and private matter. Barnes called the NBA’s investigation “kind of an ongoing situation.”
For those wondering, the Grizzlies’ first game against the Knicks this season is Jan. 16 in Memphis, Tenn.
Things were far more cordial Monday between Barnes and the team that traded him in June to the Charlotte Hornets, who sent him to the Grizzlies 10 days later. Barnes said Paul had attended his sons’ birthday party the previous night and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Griffin were talking trash via text message before the game Monday.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers makes his point to forward Lance Stephenson after Stephenson missed a defensive assignment against the Grizzlies.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers point guard Chris Paul grabs an offensive rebound in front of Grizzlies center Marc Gasol in the second half.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers point guard Austin Rivers reacts during the first half of a game against the Grizzlies.(Paul Buck / EPA)
Clippers power forward Blake Griffin tries to get off a pass in-between the defense of Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) and forward Matt Barnes (22) in the first half.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes tries to block the shot of Clippers forward Josh Smith as Smith goes up for a shot during the first half.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph tries to knock the ball free from Clippers center DeAndre Jordan during the first half on Monday.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes fouls Clippers guard Chris Paul as Barnes tries to steal the ball in the second half. The Clippers beat the Grizzlies, 94-92.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Barnes wasn’t sure what to expect from fans.
“With me, you never know,” Barnes said. “I know there’s a handful of people that love me and a handful of people that hate me and there’s a handful of people that want to chant, ‘Derek Fisher,’ so it will be an interesting night, to say the least.”
He didn’t need to worry. There was warm applause when video highlights of Barnes were shown on the scoreboard late in the first quarter and he checked into the game shortly thereafter.
Barnes could also be on the way to becoming a fan favorite in Memphis. He said he’s participated in some scoreboard features and made amends with the fan he upset during a 2013 playoff game by kicking a trash can on his way off the court.
“As soon as I start hitting my shots,” Barnes said, “I think the rest of the crowd will love me too.”
Of course, Barnes’ value has long transcended his stats. He’s considered a strong locker room presence and agitator of opponents.
“I expected big things from him and he’s surpassed all of those,” Grizzlies Coach Dave Joerger said. “He’s been just very positive, full of energy, full of life. He’s frustrated he hasn’t made more shots from the perimeter, but he’s been really, really good for us.”