Matt Barnes recently spent a few days with former Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan to celebrate Jordan’s 27th birthday, and it wasn’t all backslaps and best wishes.
Barnes made sure to warn Jordan that things could change between them in the flicker of a cake candle now that Barnes plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I told him, ‘Even though we’re good friends, I’m still going to foul the beep out of you when we play,’” Barnes recalled Tuesday during his introductory news conference in Memphis. “That’s just the kind of player I am. There’s no hard feelings.”
Barnes seems to have a solid grasp of the line between adversary and ally even when some people who are close to him do not.
“Basically coming from the enemy and now they’re the enemy,” Barnes said of the Clippers, “my kids are a little confused still. I have twin boys and they’re just like, ‘So, Daddy, do you not like DeAndre, Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin] no more?’ And I’m like, ‘No, they’re still my friends, it’s just they’re my enemy when the ball goes up.’”
That means the Clippers will be subject to Barnes’ brand of physical play after trading the veteran small forward in June to the Charlotte Hornets, who subsequently flipped him to the Grizzlies.
It also means a player known for altercations with fans and referees, along with opposing players and team owners, has some reputation-mending to do in his new city. He might start with a young female fan who became irritated during a playoff game between the Grizzlies and Clippers in April 2013, when Barnes kicked a garbage can on his way off the court after a bitter defeat.
“It was a close game and I was mad that we lost and I kicked the can,” Barnes said. “I’m looking forward to inviting that young lady back to the first game and letting her know I’m not the guy she thought I was when I kicked the can.”
Barnes mentioned Grizzlies forward Tony Allen as a similarly hard-nosed player whom he looked forward to playing alongside.
But his former Clippers teammates? Watch out.
“We can be friends off the court until the cows come home,” Barnes told Memphis radio host Chris Vernon, “but for those 48 minutes [of game time], if you’re not wearing the same jersey, I don’t know you.”