‘Committed to winning’: Can Scottie Barnes take the next step to stardom?
or a Raptors team determined to be heard in a high-profile conference, it would be nice if Barnes became a no-doubt superstar yesterday. For now, however, hopes are that a well-planned offseason has set him up for maximum success as soon as possible. Brian Macon, Barnes’ longtime mentor and skills coach, knew Barnes was serious about his rookie momentum when his young protege reached out in the days after the Raptors were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers. in the first round of the playoffs. Barnes was on triple-double pace in his playoff debut — 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists — when he suffered a scary ankle injury early in the fourth quarter after Sixers giant Joel Embiid stepped on the inside of his left foot. The fact that Barnes came back and played effectively in Games 4, 5 and 6 only added to an already excellent rookie resume and proved that his courage ran as deep as his talent.
After that injury and having played five times as many minutes in his first year as a professional than in his only college season, a long break would have been understandable. But Barnes was eager to keep rolling. « I mean, it was awesome, because at the end of the season, he texted me first, you know? » says Macon, who has known Barnes since the lanky sixth-grader followed his older brother to Macon’s basketball camps in Boca Raton, Florida. « Most of the time I’m in charge of him, but it shows his maturity and his transition to understanding his game and what he needs to improve and him telling me what he needs to do. And then it’s my job to come up with the plan of how we’re going to get there.
Identifying the shortcomings in Barnes’ game wasn’t rocket science, in part because what Barnes does well is also quite simple. His rookie year was a marvel for many reasons, but perhaps most importantly in its sheer excellence. He was as good or better in more categories than all of his peers. He played the most minutes of any rookie, was third in points (15.2 ppg), third in rebounds (7.5 per game), and top-five in assists and shots. interceptions. He improved through the season, winning the last two Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards and had a knack for making big numbers against big-name opponents: in home and away games against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, Barnes averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals in his three meetings with Kevin Durant, and had 25 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a one-on-one with two-time MVP Nikola. Jokic in Denver. In each of these instances, he also had defensive moments when he frustrated the game’s elite.