Matt Barnes was added to the Kings roster to give them some toughness and to take some pressure off All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. People avoided using the word but the fact is Barnes was brought in to be an “enforcer”. That’s a title the NBA avoids while the NHL has accepted the role and title for years.
Barnes had also played for head coach Dave Joerger in Memphis which set him up to help interpret Joerger’s philosophy and actions to his new teammates. Add in Barnes ability to be a force on offense or defense as needed and it is easy to see why the Kings added him to the roster.
The fact that Barnes is a Sacramento product didn’t hurt his value to the Kings. Local hard-core fans followed Barnes because he was a Del Campo High School player – he was like their own personal connection to “the association”. Now Barnes would become their personal tie to the Kings.
Things started off great. Barnes took on the older brother role for the team. When things were not going well, Barnes would have the press corps come to him to ask questions and get answers. It was all going well until a fateful night in Manhattan when Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins were supposedly involved in a fight inside a trendy nightclub following a Kings loss to the Knicks.
Since that time, Barnes has not been able to be that force in the locker room with the press he once was before the NYC incident. He continued to play at a high level on the court even after having to return to New York to be charged with a misdemeanor.
Now, Cousins is gone and making the playoffs is no longer the number one priority. Remaking the team and culture is the new agenda for the Kings; therefore, Matt “the enforcer” Barnes is no longer needed in Sacramento.
With Kings paying the bulk of his salary, expect a team fighting to make the playoffs or looking to move up in the seeding to “rent” Barnes’ services for the remainder of the season and playoffs.