Over his nine-year career, Matt Barnes said, he has always had to prove his worth.
So when Clippers point guard Chris Paul asked Barnes to come play for his team after another pickup game at L.A.'s practice facility this summer, the 6-foot-7 small forward didn’t hesitate to sign a free-agent contract despite the obstacles he faced.
The Clippers already had a starting small forward in Caron Butler and had already signed free agent Grant Hill to be the backup.
Even though Barnes was looking for a job, coming to the Clippers didn’t appear to be the ideal situation for him.
“It’s always been a situation where I’ve had to work for it,” Barnes said. “So I’ve always looked at it as a challenge more than anything.”
Barnes has proved his worth during the exhibition season, practicing hard, playing in every game.
He is playing a key role now that Hill is out because of a sore right knee.
“My job is to just bring energy, toughness, rebounds,” Barnes said. “When you get to play with a point guard like Chris, if you run the court, then he’ll reward you. I haven’t played with a point guard like Chris since I played with Steve Nash.”
Barnes is averaging 12.4 points in five games — tied for fourth-best on the team — on 48.9% shooting. He’s averaging 6.4 rebounds, third-best on the team.
“He’s in the right spot,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He runs the court. He guards four positions, basically. He’s a very good slasher. He’s a very good rebounder. So, I’ve been real pleased with Matt and just his activity overall.”
Barnes had spent the last two seasons with the Lakers but wasn’t invited back, something Paul said he was unaware of.
So after a pickup game, Paul suggested Barnes come play for the Clippers.
“I’ve told everybody this: I hate playing against Matt,” Paul said. “But I knew him on my team, I would love it. He’s passionate on defense, just like I am.
“I always say this about the NBA: You’ve got to respect everybody, but never fear them. Matt don’t fear nobody. From the best player in the NBA to the worst, he don’t fear nobody. We need that and I love it.”
Paul playing for love of game
With 6 minutes 27 seconds left in Saturday night’s exhibition game and the Clippers trailing Utah by 12 points, Paul got up off the bench to check back into the game.
Clippers assistant coach Robert Pack looked incredulously at Paul.
For Paul, it was simple: He wanted to play.
“I don’t be thinking it’s a preseason game,” Paul said. “To me, it’s just a game. But I understand too. We’ve got a long season.”
Paul also said knowing that he had shot the ball only eight times in the first two games, he wanted to play more to get up some more shots.
Paul was seven for 13 and scored 17 points against the Jazz.
The Clippers, who didn’t practice Sunday, play the Golden State Warriors on Monday night at Staples Center, giving Paul another chance to get his rhythm.
“I need to know I can score,” he said. “Like everybody thinks that you just always know that you can. But I need to know that I can so I can make sure I have the confidence going into the season.”