When the Warriors were down 2-1 in their Western Conference semi-final matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies it felt like the sky was falling. The critics were loud and were quick to claim that the Warriors were done.
One constant in that series was Harrison Barnes. Playoff Barnes played well against the Grizzlies and his performance throughout the series was a reason why the Warriors won three straight games and advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
After a disappointing season last year, Barnes was a starter this season and picked a perfect time to take his game to another level. How can you explain his progression? Barnes spent time with an NBA legend this past Summer. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Jerry West worked with Barnes in Los Angeles this past Summer:
For five days, Barnes joined the Hall of Famer whose Bel-Air home is just down the street from one of the more infamous basketball courts you’ll find. By day, they worked on the regulation-sized court that’s inside the home of shoe mogul Steven Jackson – a replica of the Staples Center, “Lakers mausoleum,” as West describes it, that visiting NBA teams will sometimes use for shoot-arounds or practices. By night, they all sat in the West’s family dining room, where his wife, Karen, would take food requests from Barnes and try to replenish all those calories he’d burned learning tricks of the trade from her legendary husband.
West was one of the greatest players in NBA history and the logo of this great league, so Barnes spent his time wisely this Summer. Barnes is a very emotional player, so learning from a player like West must have given him great confidence.
Barnes not only worked out with West in the gym, but also went to his house and talked about the history of the sport and the current state of the NBA. Barnes is a very smart player and those hours with West were extremely valuable.
Now, the emergence of Playoff Barnes doesn’t seem as much of a surprise.