Five players auditioned for the Charlotte Bobcats Thursday, among them Harrison Barnes of North Carolina. The Bobcats have the second pick in the NBA draft, and Barnes is the only one of the five who is a candidate.
As we wait for the players to finish, I tell a man that Barnes reminds me of Charlotte’s Matt Carroll. The sentence is out of my mouth no more than two seconds when Carroll walks onto the practice court.
This is more than a coincidence.
Carroll is a very good shooter (he wasn’t last season, but little went right for Charlotte last season). Barnes is a very good shooter.
Carroll is 6-6 and 212 pounds. Barnes is 6-8 and 210 pounds.
Carroll almost never goes to the basket. Barnes almost never goes to the basket.
You watched the Tar Heels last season. You waited for Barnes to fake a shot and drive and draw a foul or hit a layup.
But if Barnes drove, it was in a car after the game.
As pretty as his shot is, his reluctance or inability to beat his man off the dribble means the Bobcats can't – all right, shouldn't – invest their golden No. 2 pick on him.
How did Barnes, who turned 20 last month, look Wednesday?
“He played to his strengths,” says Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap. “He shoots the ball extremely well, he’s a very good athlete and he’s got a good attitude.”
Three other Tar Heels will be drafted. I think point guard Kendall Marshall, who sees the court exquisitely, will be the best of them.
But others see qualities in Barnes I don’t. One of them auditioned Thursday. He is C.J. Williams, a guard-forward out of N.C. State. Williams played four seasons for the Wolfpack, the last two against Barnes.
In the interest of fairness I should point out that Williams and Barnes like each other.
Can Barnes go to the basket?
“I‘m surprised you’d even ask me that question,” Williams says. “Yes, he can go to the basket. He’s a very physical basketball player. When he uses his body to get between you and the basket and it’s just tough to get through that.”
So I’m wrong to consider him a jump shooter?
“He’s a really good jump shooter,” says Williams. “So there’s no problem with thinking of him as a jump shooter. But I think of him as an overall scorer.”
I think of him as a jump shooter.
Barnes would like to be a Bobcat.
“They seem very interested,” he says. “It just depends on what they need the most, whether it’s a perimeter player or a big.”
Michael Jordan, the Bobcats owner, watches the audition. Along with sharing a Tar Heel pedigree, Barnes and Jordan share a name. Barnes’ middle name is Jordan, and it’s not because of Carolina Panthers tackle Jordan Gross.
Barnes is asked if auditioning in front of his middle namesake was tough or intimidating.
“Naw, I was going to ask him for a shooting contest but he skipped out a little early,” Barnes says.
Of course Barnes would challenge Jordan to a shooting contest as opposed to, say, a ball-handling contest.
I ask Barnes if he can do things he didn’t show at North Carolina.
“I think the biggest thing is I’m just trying to improve my game, all-around game,” he says. “Especially putting it on the floor, that’s my biggest knock, and definitely trying to show teams I’ve been working on that, putting it on the floor and getting to the basket. Also being able to find guys, which I’ll be able to demonstrate.”
Can you put it on the floor?
“Yeah,” says Barnes. “I have the ability to.”
Meanwhile, out on court, Matt Carroll hits shot after shot, from angles easy and difficult, all of them jumpers.
Unlike Barnes he knows what he can't do.