DeAndre Jordan wrapped Matt Barnes in a bear hug before the Clippers’ shoot-around. Chris Paul held up his phone so that his son could say hello to Barnes on FaceTime.
That was it for the reunion between Barnes and his former teammates.
Barnes couldn’t play for the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night. The veteran forward couldn’t even appear at FedEx Forum after the NBA announced it had suspended him for attempting to enter the Milwaukee Bucks’ locker room on Thursday and “verbally challenging” Bucks forward John Henson.
Asked about the incident after the Grizzlies’ shoot-around Saturday, Barnes denied trying to enter the Milwaukee locker room to go after Henson after Henson had blocked his shot and taunted him in the final seconds of a victory over Memphis.
Video footage showed Barnes running off the court and into a tunnel in the same direction as Henson, but Barnes said he was led astray by a worker at the arena.
“Their door guy led me to the wrong room and everybody started making a big deal about it,” said Barnes, who was also ejected for continuing use of obscenities after some initial confusion about whether he was staying in the game, “and then I walked out.”
Barnes said he wasn’t trying to escalate the situation, but security officials at the arena asked Henson to wait until the Grizzlies’ bus had departed before clearing him to leave.
Barnes had already been suspended two games this season for a physical altercation involving then-New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher at the home of Barnes’ former wife, Gloria Govan. Grizzlies Coach Dave Joerger mentioned TMZ pictures of Fisher and Govan being released on the day of the game against the Bucks as part of Barnes’ frustration.
The Clippers know all about Barnes and controversies. His three seasons with the team were marred by a racial epithet directed at his teammates on Twitter and verbal spats with Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and James Harden’s mother.
He remained a popular teammate, which was evident amid the flurry of hugs and handshakes he received as the Clippers walked onto the court for their shoot-around Saturday. As Jordan wrapped him in a tight embrace, Barnes joked, “Come on, man, get out of here. It’s not about you right now.”
Barnes told Paul he was going to bring his sons to the Clippers’ game against Portland later this month and asked his former teammate whether he had informed his son that his twin boys were going to go to school with him next year.
There could be an extended reunion if the Clippers and Grizzlies meet in the first round of the playoffs, a strong possibility with the teams holding the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the Western Conference. That would presumably entail Barnes actually getting to play against the Clippers.
“I would love to be able to go back home,” Barnes said, “and play these people in the playoffs.”
CLIPPERS AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
When: 3 p.m. PDT.
Where: Smoothie King Center.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 570, 1330.
Records: Pelicans 25-43; Clippers 43-25.
Record vs. Pelicans: 3-0.
Update: New Orleans’ late-season push has been toward the lottery, not the playoffs. The Pelicans have lost nine of their last 11 games and will be without Eric Gordon (broken finger), Tyreke Evans (knee surgery) and Quincy Pondexter (knee surgery) for the rest of the season. They will also be without All-Star center Anthony Davis on Sunday after he experienced soreness in his left knee Friday against Portland and was ruled out for the game against the Clippers.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch