The best way to get over a bad relationship is to jump back into the dating game as soon as possible… While it may not be the best love advice, it may be the thing that helps two NBA stars get back into the swing of things for the upcoming season.
Center Andrew Bogut and forward Harrison Barnes — two key cogs in the Golden State Warriors back-to-back NBA Finals appearances — are looking to use the time spent playing in the 2016 Olympics to erase the memory of Bogut in street clothes and Barnes having the worst three-game stretch in NBA Finals history for their former team.
With the signing of Kevin Durant, the two former top ten picks become expendable in Golden State and Dallas Mavericks took advantage. Team owner, Mark Cuban, has to be relieved that the two are in Big D after it seemed that the Mavericks would end up empty handed again in free agency as its primary target, center Hassan Whiteside, decided to resign with the Miami Heat.
It was only the opening game of the preliminary round but both players had performances that could give Mavericks fans hope for the 2016-17 season and squelch the “tank” murmuring in Dallas.
In Australia’s 87-66 win over France, Bogut showed no ill-affect from the hyperextended knee injury that knocked him out of the NBA Finals. He finished the game with 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting and contributed five assists to go with four rebounds — this all while helping to limit fellow NBA center Rober Gobert to five points on three shot attempts.
Bogut may be a few years older and lacks the athleticism of Whiteside but he will provide Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle veteran stability on the court and in the locker room — something that the inconsistent Whiteside has yet to grasp despite being 27.
It is still up for debate how much a 31-year old center who has had a history of spending significant time on the injured list can contribute but if he can match the stat line of last year’s starter, Zaza Pachulia (8.6ppg and 9.8 rebounds), that should take some pressure off of a Dallas starting frontcourt that has an aging Dirk and an inconsistent Barnes.
5-of-32, 3-of-15, -32 +/-
To say the last three games of the NBA Finals were rough for Harrison Barnes would be an understatement. Drafted No. 7 in the 2012 NBA Barnes was brought in to be that third piece of a youth movement in the Bay that included Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and he had glimpses of potential in his first three seasons — including a 30-point performance against the Denver Nuggets to end the 2014 regular season — but against the Cavaliers, Barnes seemed to be lost on the court and became more of a hindrance than a help to his teammates.
After having made only two shots in the Game 5 & Game 6 losses to the Cavs, by the time the pivotal Game 7 rolled around, Warriors fans weren’t expecting much out of the four-year veteran and he obliged by finishing the game with only 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
As a member of the star-studded USA Olympic team Barnes is being asked again to play a complimentary role, but in the 119-62 route of China on Saturday it seemed as if he was more prepared to do more with less this time around. In only 12 minutes of play Barnes scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds, and had a +/- of +16; he did all of this while playing the least minutes of any Team USA player. There are some that question him being named to the roster but this is an important stretch for a guy that is looking to get his scoring confidence back as he heads to a new team that is looking for him to be more of the focal point.
It’s still too early to determine if their first game performance will be the norm or the exception during the Olympics, but if the duo is able to play more like this, the Warriors’ trash could end up being the treasure that the Mavericks need to get out of the Western Conference purgatory — not quite a contender but just good enough to miss out on adding talent through the NBA Lottery.