Former North Carolina standout and Golden State Warriors rookie forward Harrison Barnes makes his first pro trip back to North Carolina Monday night when the Warriors face the Charlotte Bobcats.
Barnes has started all 20 games this season and averages 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds for the 13-7 Warriors. He talked Saturday afternoon with staff writer Jonathan Jones about his rookie season, his most surreal moment and his thoughts on this season’s Tar Heels’ basketball team.
Q. The first question has to be about that dunk two weeks ago over Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic. How did that play develop and were you surprised when you saw the replay?
Klay (Thompson) made a good drive and then David Lee saw me and made a great pass and I saw an opportunity to go the rim and I just tried to finish strong. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm4UQPTORfE)
Jones: It looked pretty similar to that dunk you had your freshman year over Clemson’s Milton Jennings.
Yeah, it was very similar to that. It was just an amazing play. David made a great pass and I was able to finish. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYLvo7ik5js)
Q. You lived in Ames, Iowa and Chapel Hill. How is life adjusting to the Bay Area?
The biggest thing is that it’s so diverse. It’s so close to San Francisco and San Jose, but I like it. It’s nice.
Q. Are you a Raiders fan?
Yeah I’ve watched the Raiders a little bit. Their season’s been up and down.
Q. You grew up an admirer of Michael Jordan and UNC is a Jordan Brand School, so it made sense you would pick Nike. You instead went with Adidas. Why?
It was really the best decision for me. After the draft, I was looking for a shoe I could play in and went from there. … I feel Adidas has a lot of momentum going for them right now.
Q. Be it someone you’ve guarded or played with or an arena you’ve gone to, what’s been the most surreal moment for you this season?
Probably that dunk. That probably counts as my best NBA experience. Just getting that play, that highlight dunk and then seeing all the aftermath.
Q. What did you think of the aftermath – “SportsCenter,” YouTube and Twitter, etc.?
It was crazy. But I’ve been trying to play as consistently as possible and play at a high level.
Q. Who’s been your mentor on this Golden State team, your go-to guy for knowledge on the NBA?
There’s a lot of people that I talk to, but Richard Jefferson has definitely been big in giving me advice – especially at my position, mentoring me and taking me under his wing.
Q. Any trash talk between you and Stephen Curry about his brother and the season Duke is having?
Oh no (laughs). Every time he talks about him I ask if they lost.
Q. At UNC you usually played great games when your teachers from Ames were in attendance, including that 40-point performance against Clemson in the 2011 ACC tournament. Have they made it to any Warriors games this season?
They have. They made it to the Minnesota game. Unfortunately, I didn’t put up 40. I think I put up 18 and 8 or something like that. (He had 18 points and 9 rebounds.)
Q. What’s it like having your name in the rafters with an honored jersey in the Smith Center?
It’s truly an honor. Just to have your name honored in the Smith Center with all those names of people who have gone to UNC, it’s a blessing to have my name be a part of that.
Q. Have you kept in touch with (former UNC teammates) John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller throughout the season?
We text back and forth and kind of reflect about our experiences in the league because everyone’s walk is different.
Q. Have you tried to glean any information from them in terms of upcoming opponents that they may have faced before?
A little bit, but in the NBA every team is different every night. Just because you beat a team one night doesn’t mean you can beat the best team in the league the next night. It’s kind of hard to judge players like that.
Q. You had a photo over the summer that made its rounds on the Internet of you dressed up as The Cat in the Hat. How’d that come about?
That was something I did when I was back home in Ames.
Now that I’ve made it into the NBA, I’ve realized that I’m very fortunate and one of my responsibilities as a player is to give back to the community.
So when I was home I tried to go read to the kids there. (twitter.com/HBarnes/status/241184995174150144)
Q. Have you watched North Carolina this season?
I have caught some games.
Q. Sounds like you saw the Butler and Indiana games.
Uh, yes I did. The guys are struggling, but I have confidence that they’ll pull through.
Those are some early wake-up calls that are good and hopefully they’ll be able to respond later in the season.
Q. You went up against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (now with Bobcats) about a year ago (a 73-72 loss to Kentucky on Dec. 3, 2011). How have you seen his game mature and what do you expect out of this matchup?
He’s grown a lot and he’s definitely been working on his all-around game.
But this matchup will be a little different because UNC-Kentucky, obviously both of us were prominent players on our teams. Now, in the NBA, it could be a little a different. But I’m sure it will be a good game.
Q. I’m sure you’ve played in front of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan before, at least at the Jordan Brand Classic, if not other times. What’s it like to play in front of someone you idolized growing up?
Yeah I’ve played in front of him two or three times. It’s fun. Any time you get to play in front of the greatest player of all time, you want to go out there and win the game because winning is most important. But you also want to put on a show and have some fun.