Last week, Jerry Reynolds appeared on Sactown Sports 1140, as he does often, and made a suggestion to Whitey Gleason and Kyle Madson.
The former head coach makes a fair amount of recommendations regarding the current Kings. Some are better than others, and this one appeared to be one of the more compelling one’s.
Pertaining to Harrison Barnes, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Reynolds opined that it would be better for both the team and player if the veteran forward came off the bench so long as the contractural details suit both sides of course, which is far from a certainty.
Reynolds continued to cite a guy whom Barnes has a connection to, a guy that played that exact role when Barnes was a younger player.
“I mean he’s a terrific locker room guy, everybody respects him,” he explained about Barnes before making the comparison. “To me, you go back to Andre Iguodala with the Warriors — back when he played a couple years ago — but I mean even the last few years he played, he was very valuable because he was a great locker room guy and found a way to be productive in a lesser role. When you get real talent, especially if it’s adjusting to different roles and a good guy, that really helps keep the culture.”
It was Iguodala’s age-31 season that he accepted a bench role under first-year head coach Steve Kerr. It just so happens that Harrison Barnes will be entering his age-31 season.
The sacrifice made by the eventual 2015 Finals MVP allowed the younger Barnes to slide back into the starting lineup, which bore witness to stark contrasts in the less-experienced player’s shooting efficiency. Not to mention Iguodala’s shift in roles was one of the most instrumental aspects in Golden State being able to take the next step to win a championship and initiate the dynasty years.
Not only did the Warriors benefit from the talented Iguodala compressing his role to maximize the overall talent and depth of the team, it also provided a key presence of stability off the bench.
So much so that when the Warriors traded Iguodala in the summer of 2019, coach Kerr did not hide how “devastating” it was.
“Guys in this profession come and go pretty quickly. It’s a very fluid business,” Kerr said on a podcast. “But for what Andre has meant to not only our team but to me personally, as a coach, for accepting his role, for mentoring younger players, for monitoring the bench and keeping everything going — the respect that the stars had for him combined with his mentoring of the younger players — Andre was the unsung hero of all of this.”
More than relying on Iguodala to hold down the fort when others were resting—which is clearly a truly invaluable contribution—he was also a model of a player who was coachable.
Recall that earlier this season, Mike Brown told a story of his days with the Spurs when Gregg Popovich said he needed to thank Tim Duncan. The then-assistant asked why.
“And he said, ‘At the end of the day, this is a player’s league and Tim Duncan allows me to coach him and allows me to coach him hard,'” Brown recounted Popovich saying. “‘If he didn’t allow me to coach him and coach him hard, I wouldn’t be here and you guys wouldn’t be here. And I want to make sure he understands the appreciation I have for that, because that sets the tone for the rest of the group.'”
Much like the effect Duncan had on those San Antonio teams, Iguodala’s selflessness and understanding of what it takes was enlightening to the rest of the team regarding how winners comport themselves. Barnes could do something like that for Sacramento in terms of pushing the ball forward, and it could prove essential given coach Brown’s countless warnings of how things will only get harder from here in terms of trying to accomplish the ultimate goal.
Barnes also played two seasons with Shaun Livingston, another steadying force off the bench. Many remember Livingston as the defensively versatile king of turnaround mid-range shots, and he was, but perhaps more critical was the fact that he was, to Kerr, a dependable “metronome,” meaning “you could just count on him to be the same guy, day after day, no matter what the circumstances.”
When Livingston landed a front office job with Golden State, Kerr was sure to highlight that the former beacon of professionalism was “one of the rocks of our foundation.”
Both Iguodala and Livingston were indispensable to the Warriors’ championship runs. There is good reason why Draymond Green likened Kevon Looney’s importance during round one of the playoffs against the Kings to the importance of the other two: it’s all about being “a calming force.”
Barnes could follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and be that force off the bench, and Mike Brown—having coached Iguodala and Livingston as an assistant—would know that just as well.
However, none of this would be achieved with ease. As Reynolds noted, and as anyone would assume, a lot has to go well in terms of negotiating the right price for another Barnes contract to come off the bench. A difference of opinion in what that dollar figure looks like could serve as an insurmountable obstacle.
Also, no matter how quality Barnes’ character is, it is not the simplest task to convince an NBA competitor—one who will get offers elsewhere to be a starter—that he should reduce his role. A few years ago, Steve Kerr detailed how it took multiple conversations to get Iguodala on board with stepping back into a bench role.
Though, if the requisite contract could somehow be agreed upon, it would not be absurd for Barnes to accept such a role. Having seen it himself in his time with the Warriors, he must be aware that he could provide a similar function.
“Andre really embodied everything that I tried to teach to our players in terms of the culture, the unselfishness, the sacrifice,” Kerr said during the summer of 2019 after losing Iguodala to that trade. “He set the example in Year 1 by agreeing to come off the bench. He’s a guy who has been able to relate to everybody, play any role we’ve asked him to play.”
If possible, Having Barnes off the bench would do so much in the effort of taking this young yet promising Kings team to another level.